*Remunerated Post. All opinions are my own*
Christmas is normally a time for magical television, however, much of it is repeats. That is why I am so pleased to have had the chance to see a brand new and very magical Sky Original, Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse ahead of it’s release on Christmas Eve.
About Roald and Beatrix
A heart-warming Sky original, this magical film is inspired by the true story of when a six-year-old Roald Dahl meets his idol Beatrix Potter. It shows what can happen if you are brave enough to follow your dreams.
It begins as Beatrix Potter, played by Dawn French, is coming to the end of her career. The publisher, played by Nina Sosanya (one of Hugh Grant’s assistants in Love Actually) hounds her for the next draft but Beatrix is unable to concentrate as she is losing her eyesight, trying to catch Christmas dinner in the form of Sago the duck and just tired of writing children’s books.
Beatrix feels increasingly out of touch with her readers. She is also dealing with trespassing fans and the annoyance of some very happy carol singers. Her Cumbrian farming and increasing collection of Herdwick sheep are what matter to her most now. Throw in the mix her longsuffering husband William Heelis, played in a beautifully understated fashion by Rob Brydon, the much-loved Sally the pig and dog, Fleet and you have a house full of all sorts of goings on!
Two hundred plus miles away in Wales, life is changing in very big fashion for a 6-year-old boy called Roald, played by talented newcomer Harry Tayler. His sister passed away and, two weeks later, he lost his father, so Roald has found solace and comfort in the books of Beatrix Potter. The stories take him away from the funeral, sadness and finding out he may get sent away to boarding school.
Roald decided to run away and follow his dreams to visit the house of Beatrix Potter in Cumbria. He makes it as far as the train station when a Bone Fide Gent (the clue is in the initials!) played by the wonderful Bill Bailey, makes his acquaintance and uses some very funny language indeed.
His mother, Sofie played by the fantastic talent of Jessica Hynes (formerly known as Stevenson and well-known for appearing in Spaced and Shaun of the Dead) catches up with him at the station and she encourages him to pursue the trip, joining him in his escapade.
The journey then continues with other characters appearing including a fox in the form of a stole across a lady’s neck who chats to Roald, Dora the tea shop owner, played by Alison Steadman (who won the 1993 Olivier Award for Best Actress for her role as Mari in The Rise and Fall of Little Voice), who comforts Roald’s mother whilst Roald is following his adventure at the house of Beatrix Potter. Dora also reads the tea leaves and makes a mighty big prediction.
The dream of meeting his favourite author is eventually realised for Roald and their very special encounter proves to be both a magical and life changing moment for them both.
Throw in the mix an underlying animated adventure of some mice, perfectly narrated by John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and you have a completely magical tale which is suitable for young and old alike.
Firstly, I need to say that it was with some trepidation that my other half watched this with me. He is not the biggest Dawn French fan but I convinced him otherwise and he, my daughter Grace (13) and I sat down with our dinner to watch Roald and Beatrix. He soon admitted that he was very pleased to have been proved totally wrong.
Special mention must be given to the fact that the cast filmed this under Covid restrictions during a hot summer.
There was not a bad performance in this wonderful film. Dawn French played her role as the prickly Potter and the lovable bickering between her and William (Brydon) was superb. Newcomer, Harry Tayler as Roald Dahl played his part to perfection but the stand-out performance for me was Jessica Hynes as Sofie Dahl, Roald’s mother. Dawn French commented ‘How Jessica managed to do that Norwegian-Cardiff accent, I do not know. I am so in awe of her. I’d have turned down a role if I’d been asked to do that!’ I was in awe too. She was simply superb.
Attention to Detail
Along with the beautiful Cumbrian cottage with it’s light dusting of snow, there were little snippets and Easter eggs throughout. The blue coat of Roald, skipping around Potter’s garden combined with Beatrix’s poor eyesight meant that it came across as flashes of Peter Rabbit. There was also the breaking of a plant pot in a shed by Dahl, another Peter Rabbit reference.
The Director of Photography did a stunning job and the film itself was beautiful and looks like it was taken straight out of the illustrations from a Beatrix Potter job.
Look out for references to The Twits, Fantastic Mr Fox, the BFG and The Witches amongst others. The sense of fun shines through.
A wonderful message for the future
I don’t want to give too much away so I won’t share exactly what Beatrix and Roald both realised as a result of their encounter BUT what I will say is that they both learned to stay true to themselves and follow their dreams.
If you have the chance to watch this beautiful Sky Original then do it. Our family thoroughly enjoyed it. And if you do, don’t forget to download the family activity pack (click on the image above).