I didn’t see the movie Saving Mr. Banks when it came out. In fact, I only watched it this week. I’m sorry I waited so long, as it is an excellent film. It’s about the making of Mary Poppins. Mary Poppins seems like a story for children, and I suppose the fact that P L Travers managed to sell a series of eight books about the magical nanny speaks to their effectiveness. But I’ve always gotten misty at the end of the movie, when they all go out to fly a kite. It’s just so wonderful that old Mr. Banks has finally seen the light and learned to break out of his shell and play again, or maybe for the first time. And no wonder, because as it turns out, there is a lot of truth in the story of Mr. Banks. He is based upon the author’s father, one Travers Goff (her real name was Helen Goff.) She took his name as her own, which says something about how much she loved the man.
He was “in a cage,” just like Bert tells the children in the movie. He never broke out, at least not before the consumption took him away. So, young Helen was left to try to redeem him all by herself. The movie is about her coming to terms with the real story behind Mary Poppins, and I won’t spoil it any more than to say that redemption did come. My thesis here is that the film works because of the genuine, heartfelt emotion that was written into it, both by Mrs. Travers and the Disney folks who translated the story on to film. In fact, that “Fly a Kite” scene is the exact moment when Mr. Banks, and by extension, Mr. Travers Goff, is finally redeemed. No wonder it’s such a wonderful scene: it’s real!
I look at the stuff I write and I wonder if I’ve put myself into it to that extent. Because I doubt if it will do well if I haven’t. This is the reason, I’m sure, that the #1 piece of advice for new authors turns out to be “only write stuff you want to read!” Sure, there’s craft, technique, word usage, all of that, but what it comes down to, I think, is whether or not your heart is in the story.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think that I have a kite to fly.