Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I must admit that when I saw the trailer for this film, I cringed. Paddington was a charming children's book that I loved and, like many of those, I feared that this had been turned into yet another awful adaptation of a beloved classic (i.e. The Cat in The Hat). Rotten Tomatoes has the film at a 98% in terms of positive film reviews, which is higher than many of the films nominated for best picture  for an Oscar this year. Still, I went in wary but found myself charmed by this movie about an orphan bear who is taken in by the Brown family.

When he first gets to their brownstone in Notting Hill, we find that the family is disconnected from each other. Each in their own room and their own little world. From the moment she first saw this little bear in Paddington Station, Mrs. Brown (played beautifully by Sally Hawkins) has felt a small connection to him. While Paddington has literally lost his family, she, in her own way, has too.

A family and being in a new place is all strange and unfamiliar territory for Paddington. He makes a lot of mistakes and struggles to fit in with these humans, just as they don't know what to make of him. The eldest daughter, who, herself, is trying to fit in at a new school. She doesn't want this "strange" bear in their family because she thinks they are "weird" enough.

Unlike many family films, this one cares about its characters and shows that there are more to all of us beneath the surface, as shown in the father's storyline (played by Hugh Bonneville of Downton Abbey fame). He, like the father in Mary Poppins, goes through a transformation that shows how deeply he really does love his family. His character is not the typical movie father, but all of his struggles are out of a genuine concern for his family's well-being. But he will have to learn, as Mrs. Bird tells him, "This family needs that bear as much as that bear needs you." This line is true for any adoptive family about their adoptive child . . .

. . . because, ultimately, this film is about adoption.  Just as in adoption, the family's life becomes a mixture of chaos and joy. I, like Mr. Brown, wanted my family's life to just return to "normal" after Cava's arrival. Like Paddington, Cava put our house in sixes and sevens and upset the routine of our days, but, like the Browns, our routines needed upsetting so that it could be filled with more love and joy than it had ever been before. Cava was our little brown bear who opened our family up to so many new experiences and people that we never would have had or met without him. As Mr. Brown says, "It doesn't matter if someone comes from halfway round the world, if you love them, they are family." This hit straight to my adoptive father's heart because of how true it really is. In so many ways, our family, like the Browns, have grown closer and stronger because of him being a part of us.  

When he came to London, Paddington had a small note attached to him for someone to "please look after this bear" and the filmmakers clearly have. This film is absolutely delightful, warm, and full of heart, It's a treat for the whole family.

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