Once again, the wind is in the east, and the mist is coming in, with the triumphant return of Mary Poppins in a brand-new musical adventure, 54 years on from the original Disney classic. Based on the stories by P. L. Travers, Mary Poppins Returns features Emily Blunt (practically perfect in every way) breathing fresh life into the role of the no-nonsense nanny, returning to help a new generation of the Banks family.
Directed by Rob Marshall, who was behind Disney’s big-screen adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods, the film dives into Depression-era London, 20 years after the events of the original, and the Banks children are grown up. “’Mary Poppins was the first film I saw as a child, and it opened up my mind to movies and to the love of musicals, adventure and fantasy in film,” explains the Oscar-nominated director.
Michael (Ben Whishaw) now has a family of his own, and has followed in the footsteps of his grandfather and father by working at the prestigious Fidelity Fiduciary Bank. Still residing in 17 Cherry Tree Lane, Michael is struggling in the wake of the great economic slump, and, more personally, with the recent loss of his wife. The house is crumbling into disarray, and with only his inefficient but kindly housekeeper, Ellen (Julie Walters), to keep the home in order, Michael desperately needs help.
His sister, Jane (Emily Mortimer), tries as much as she can, but, like her mother before her, she is busy being dedicated to many notable charitable causes, campaigning for workers’ rights. With such a heavy weight on his shoulders, Michael is feeling the pressure, and at the same time losing touch with his children. A bad situation becomes even worse with the arrival of Mr Wilkins (Colin Firth), who has foreclosed on the family home.
Fortunately, there’s a change in the wind, when Mary Poppins arrives to put things back on track and remind the Banks children, both young and old, that joy can be found even when things seem their darkest. With the help of her old friend, the lamplighter, Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), she brings a touch of magic back into the Banks’ lives, taking them on a series of wondrous adventures. Along the way, Poppins introduces them to a dazzling array of new eccentric characters, including her older cousin, Topsy (Academy Award winner Meryl Streep), and one of Travers’ most beloved creations, The Balloon Lady, played by the wonderful Angela Lansbury.
“It was obvious there were many more stories to be told,” says director Marshall. “Once we read all the books, we realised we could find a different way in – most importantly, by emphasising Travers’ recurring theme that as we become adults, we become disillusioned and cynical, and forget how to look at life through a child’s eyes.”
Marshall was keen to retain the essence of Travers’ beloved books, but was also eager to make a bold new story for contemporary audiences. Marshall added, “People feel unsure and vulnerable, so it’s important to have something that can lift us out of our day-to-day existence.” With Mary Poppins Returns, Marshall wanted to, “remind [audiences] that there is still magic and wonder in the world”.