The 2013 film Saving Mr. Banks is the story of tragedy as much as it is the story of magic. Nominally the tale of the genesis of Mary Poppins, the 1964 movie, the film is also a biopic by another means: an exploration of the childhood of P. L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins book series that informed the iconic Disney film. Mary Poppins, Saving Mr. Banks suggests, was rooted in sadness: Travers, born Helen Lyndon Goff, lost her beloved father, a man of imagination and youthful wonder, when he was 43 (due to, the film suggests, complications from alcoholism).
Employed, like Mr. Banks, at a financial institution, the film’s Goff (Colin Farrell) was torn between the soft whimsies of childhood and the hard responsibilities of becoming an adult. So, in its way, is the movie: Saving Mr. Banks is the story of magic colliding with business. Set in the early 1960s, as P. L. Travers negotiates with Walt Disney about selling him the rights to her enchanted nanny, it is a story, ultimately, about a contract that changed the course of entertainment history. Emma Thompson plays Travers, the owner of the IP, as prickly and principled to a fault and, in all that, slightly pitiable.