Something's been bothering me. I've tried to push it to the back of my mind, primarily because of the pigs. But last night as I lay in bed trying to sleep it kept raising into my consciousness and even pigs swimming a synchronized ballet couldn't push it back. Nanny McPhee (small c big p).
Clearly I've changed between seeing the last one and the new one that's just opened. I loved, without qualification, the last one. I did this one too, for about a day. I laughed, like a delighted child, at the antics of the pigs and at the burping crow and at the pen stealing elephant. I liked the idea that children were learning lessons which were taught with magic and fun and love. I was thrilled by the cameo performances of some big stars, Fiennes deserves an Oscar for his few minutes on screen.
Perhaps it's best to tell you a bit about the plot (no spoilers here). Nanny McPhee (small c big p) shows up and she's got a distinctive face. We're supposed to think it ugly. She's got moles, a unibrow, a thick nose and one tooth that escapes her mouth only to take rest on her lower lip. People make jokes about her appearance yet she goes happily on her way respected by all who know her. However, as the children learn their lessons she becomes more traditionally attractive, moles disappear, eyebrows separate, magic rhinoplasty alters her nose and so forth. By the end of the movie she has a traditionally beautiful and somewhat radiant face.
I was delighted to see her again when she showed up on the screen. I was delighted moles and all. Knowing who she was from the last film, I found myself liking that face - the first face. I already knew that she had a beautiful character and that character shone through her eyes and informed mine. When the moles began to disappear I was disturbed. I closed my eyes and wished them back but, no, they were gone. As she grew more conventionally attractive I grew more disenchanted with what I was seeing. I didn't NEED Nanny to change to find her beautiful. I didn't NEED her to be anything but 'Nanny In The First Place'.
I know, I know, films and literature constantly say, out loud, that beauty is only skin deep - but then most stories give a different message. Ugly is criminal, ugly is deviant, ugly is repulsive - it's beauty, not the beast, that is holy. Isn't it possible that attractiveness is about more than clear skin and sculptured brows? Isn't it possible that we as viewers, could have come to see her become magically more beautiful WITH moles - wouldn't that be more like the miracle of true transformation. That the appearance of beauty happens in the heart of the viewer rather than on the face of Nanny McPhee (small c big p).
Emma Thompson, the star of the film also wrote the film. I challenge her to make Nanny McPhee (small ... oh you get it by now) part 3 - but this time do something magical. Let her true beauty stand out - let her in dignity be 'Nanny With The First Face.' It's a face we already love - we don't need it different.