Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Small Piece of Paper

"Saving Mr. Banks," is a movie about the making of the Disney Film 'Mary Poppins.' Joe and I went on New Years day unsuspecting that the movie would be as deep as it was, that the messages it would impart would be as many and varied. I am going to write about a scene in the film which took only seconds but had me sitting up, staring, while simultaneously, reeling in shock. If you are one of those who doesn't like to know much about a film, you may want to come back and read this after you've seen it. I don't believe that this is, officially, a 'spoiler' because I'm not revealing anything about the ending or the main story line.

To set up the moment Mrs. P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, has a driver who discloses to her that he has a daughter who is a wheelchair user. The conversation in the film uses language of the day, I don't need to replicate that here. The moment he tells her is a small moment explaining to Mrs. Travers why he is always so interested in the weather - something she had commented on.

Much later in the film, when Mrs. Travers is leaving and he is dropping her off at the airport she hands him a small piece of paper. She recites names of several well known people that she had written on the paper. She then tells him that these are all people who have 'difficulties'. She instructs him to go home and tell his daughter about them, and to tell her that she can go on to be and do what she chooses. (My wording here is probably way off ... but you get the meaning.)

That was it.

I was stunned.

She instructed him to tell his daughter of the community of people to which she belongs and to let her know that her destiny, like theirs had been, is in her own hands. She instructed him to tell her that she was not alone, that there are others who - like her - have faced disability and who have gone on to live lives of contribution and value.


In a movie that had nothing to do with disability - sits this lovely moment. I wonder if the audience heard what was said, I hoped they understood it.

The movie also has a major character with a disability whose disability is evident, is explained, but is not discussed because it just wasn't pertinent to the story. He was notable as a character because of his character, and part of his character was to make no attempt, at any point to hide his disability or to make any attempt at passing - he just was who he was and that was that.

None of these things are really about the plot of the movie. They are just there. And that's why I liked them so much. Disability is just there - it exists as part of our social world - although you'd never know that from watching movies or television.

Both Joe and I liked the story of the film and found it quietly moving. I would have recommended it even if that scene and that character wasn't there ... but it is ... so, if you can ... go.


Tamara said...

I agree, that *was* a good moment, and the other disability was handled so naturally. Plus, she certainly didn't treat him any differently (nicer!) because of it.

I was kind of bracing for some negative reaction when the driver first told her about his daughter. Knowing the time period, I wasn't sure how she would react. When she didn't really react at first, I kind of thought it was a weird, random thing to throw in. Then, when she handed him the list, I was like - ah! Cool!

Anonymous said...

I've at times wondered why you seem to have so many interesting and thought-provoking experiences, and I don't. I wondered if it's because I'm not in the circles you're in, or because I'm simply not as observant. But now I think I have my answer.

I saw the movie a few days ago, and didn't recognize the significance of either situation. In fact, after reading your post, it still took me about half an hour to figure out who had a disability in the film.

I know what my New Year's Resolution should be: learn to observe what is going on around me.

GirlWithTheCane said...

I was very struck...and both of these moments as well. And, like you, I wondered how much of the audience would pick up on them.

Like you said, they had nothing to do with the movie's main storyline - but really brought out aspects of the characters involved that we might not have seen otherwise, I don't think...added some nice layering to the story.

And just a great message. A nice surprise where I wasn't expecting it.

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Flemisa said...

Not related to the blog post -- which I thought was great at pointing out moments that may have gone unnoticed -- I was wondering if you had seen the Ted Talk by Maysoon Zayid: I got 99 problems and only one is Cerebral Palsy " " I am not sure how to embed it so just copied the web address. Found it thought provoking, funny and heart warming.

Anonymous said...

This movie wasn't on my list of movies to see. I think you just changed that. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Saw the movie today and was on alert for those moments as described. I think it had more to do with the story than others may think. It reflected what her father believed about what his daughter could achieve despite setbacks. It also did, as pointed out, reveal more about the character (Mrs. Travers) than what she "tried" to portray. Good movie. People actually clapped afterwards! Thanks for the heads up Dave.

Unknown said...

That part made me cry, happy tears.