Mary Poppins Returns: Rediscovering joy and wonder

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Children have a natural sense of joy and wonder. But, as Mary’s magical umbrella says in Mary Poppins Returns, ‘grownups forget, they always do.’ Why is this? And how can that joy and wonder be rediscovered?

In this long-awaited sequel, Michael Banks, the young son in the first film, is now grown up with children of his own. Tragically his wife has died, and his life is falling to pieces. ‘The magic vanished since you went away’ he sings to her memory. He has abandoned his hope of becoming an artist and taken a mundane job at the bank.

When his youngest son brings Mary Poppins home, saying ‘I was flying a kite and caught a nanny’, Michael’s immediate thought is that he cannot afford her. But Mary is undeterred, she is on a mission once more to save the Banks family.

At first the children are sceptical but, when she takes them on a fantastical underwater adventure through the bubbles of their bath, they realise that Mary is no ordinary nanny. And this is no ordinary sequel. Mary Poppins Returns takes these adventures deeper than the first film. They don’t just provide a spectacular visual and musical treat, they also provide opportunities for the children, and us as the audience, to reflect on important life lessons. In her upside-down repair shop, Mary’s cousin Topsy invites them to look at life from a different perspective. In the magical music hall Mary sings ‘the cover is nice but it’s not the book… so open it up and take a look.’ In the spectacular dance routine by lamplighters, Mary’s friend Jack teaches them to look up for a light to guide them home.

This beautiful sequel will undoubtedly reawaken the joy and wonder many of us experienced in the first film. But, perhaps its extra depth and meaning might also reawaken our joy and wonder in life. If we, like Michael, have become worn down by the cares and worries of this world, perhaps we also need to rediscover what it means to look through the eyes of a child.