With the Beatrix Potter: Drawn to Nature exhibition currently on display at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, it’s the perfect time to take a look back at one of our favourite heart-warming movies, Miss Potter, with our guest writer Ann Philippas.
The 2006 film was directed by Chris Noonan (Babe) and features an all-star cast, including Renee Zellweger (Bridget Jones’s Diary), Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge), Bill Paterson (The Witches), and Emily Watson (A Royal Night Out).
After a stifled upbringing and equally suppressed unmarried adult life, Beatrix (Zellweger) is initially thrilled to have finally had her talent for art and story-writing seemingly acknowledged by a prestigious publishing house. However, it soon transpires that her new turnaround is not what she at first thought it to be.
Believing The Tale of Peter Rabbit to be an inevitable failure, the two elder Warne brothers have proceeded to pass Beatrix’s book on to their younger, eager, inexperienced sibling Norman (McGregor), who has recently joined the firm and, like Beatrix, is determined to prove himself. Considered to be doomed to failure and therefore unworthy of any precious time, Norman and Beatrix are left to pursue their project alone.
Their endeavours soon turn out to be triumphant though, as between them they go on to publish one successful book after another, causing the sales from the modestly-priced books to rocket and Beatrix’s reputation to soar.
In the meantime, a close friendship develops between herself and Norman’s rebellious sister Millie (Watson), as does a blossoming romance between Beatrix and Norman. The latter appalls her socialite parents, in particular her unsympathetic and long-suffering mother (Barbara Flynn from The Durrells), who has long since given up turning out countless suitors for her wayward daughter’s benefit and is unable to recognise her talent and fame for what they are.
Due to unforeseen tragic events, Beatrix’s story does not turn out to be what it might have; on the other hand, she might not have ended up moving to and living her idyllic life in her famous Lake District cottage, as well as saving many acres of natural land from developers and leaving it to the National Trust for the benefit of future generations.
Some of the most memorable scenes from Miss Potter are those of her childhood, most probably because they remind me of my own; having a mischievous younger brother, playing in nature, sketching alone for hours and locked away in one’s own thoughts and imaginings (such as the truly delightful scene in which she watches her quarrelling parents set off in the snow for a party in a carriage attended by dutiful mice and drawn by expectant rabbits).
The scene where she turns up plastered with mud and snubs her mother’s narrow-minded references to future husbands draws both hilarity and understanding from the viewer.
At first glance, the two main men in Beatrix’s life could not be more different: the gentle, inquisitive, almost poetic Norman Warne, and the strong, independent and far more experienced William Heelis (Coupling actor Lloyd Owen) seem to have almost nothing in common.
However, I would say the one great factor that unites them is the deep appreciation they have for her art. They are both able to get as much joy out of her characters as she is and, in the end, that is what draws her to them the most.
Miss Potter is available to watch on Amazon Prime Video.