Film Review: Saving Mr Banks


Saving Mr Banks is warm, humorous, and quintessentially Disney.

P.L. Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins books, is being pursued by Walt Disney to sign over the rights to the company. As she travels to meet the filmmakers, Travers reflects on her childhood…

Saving Mr Banks focuses on a short period when P.L. Travers met with Walt Disney and his creative team to bring Mary Poppins to the big screen. Over the course of the film, action jumps between the pre-production of Mary Poppins and the recollections of Travers’ childhood.

The two co-existing narratives act almost as the humorous (the 1960s) and the dramatic (1900s) sides to the film. Given the themes of fantasy, and the duality of characters, this device is effective. Saving Mr Banks is also successful when the two narratives intertwine.

Director John Lee Hancock’s film is about the power of whimsy as much as it is about memory and the relationship between recollection and the imagination. Saving Mr Banks is an endorsement of the effect of fantasy on its audience. In doing so, it promotes the output of the Disney company itself.

Saving Mr Banks is an interesting product as a film made by Disney about Disney. The film does promote the company, but does not shy away from depicting less flattering aspects. P.L. Trravers’ reaction to the company, and indeed to Walt Disney himself, is cause for frequent amusement.

Emma Thompson delivers an affecting performance as P.L. Travers. Tom Hanks is competent as ever as Walt Disney, whilst Paul Giamatti shines in a small role.

Saving Mr Banks is an entertaining back story to a much loved movie. With its comedy, emotion and spirit, the film does not disappoint.

Saving Mr Banks closed the BFI London Film Festival on 20th October 2013. The film is on general release from 29th November 2013.