Warning: SPOILERS for Mary Poppins Returns.
Mary Poppins Returns has a wonderfully uplifting ending, but what does it actually mean? The titular nanny, played by Emily Blunt, returns to the big screen after a 54-year absence, though time hasn't passed quite as quickly on Cherry Tree Lane. Set in the 1930s, Michael and Jane Banks (Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer) are now adults, with Michael a widowed father of three, and Jane a doting aunt and very supportive sister. The bank is set to repossess their childhood home, unless Michael can find the certificate that proves he owns shares. The whole movie is a pure Disney classic from start to finish, with perfect performances from the all-star cast, and outstanding musical numbers.
When Michael finds the certificate and his loan is cleared, like his father before him he heads to the park with his children, though this time, instead of flying a kite, they buy balloons from the singing balloon lady, played wonderfully by Angela Lansbury. With a sprinkling of magic, everyone holds tight to their balloon as they soar up in the sky, singing "Nowhere To Go But Up." It's the perfect closing number, and as the cast all sing and float through the clouds, Mary Poppins realizes it's time to take her leave.
Mary Poppins Returns' ending is on the face of it rather simple, a homage to the original movie that leaves audiences on a high, but there's a lot more going on than at first seems. Here's what it really means.
- This Page: The Truth About Mary Poppins
- Page 2: Mary Poppins Returns' Ending Real Meaning
Is Mary Poppins' Magic Real?
With its teasing of adults forgetting magic - and what it's like to be a child - Mary Poppins Returns draws attention to one of the biggest questions about the titular nanny. In the original Mary Poppins, it was assumed that no adults could understand or see Mary Poppins' magic at work (apart from Bert), but Mary Poppins Returns explores this concept further. Having visited Michael and Jane when they were children, Mary Poppins has quite literally worked her magic once before. Now as adults, Michael and Jane dismiss their past memories as nonsense. Is it actually nonsense, or is she truly magical?
Certainly her arrival from the sky is noted by Bert in Mary Poppins, and by Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda). He also, like Bert before him, happily accompanies her and the children on many adventures - to visit cousin Topsy (Meryl Streep) and perhaps most importantly, inside the Royal Doulton bowl. If her magic was not real, would Jack be along for the ride? He also watches in awe as she sails up into the sky to change the hands on Big Ben. The presented theory is that her magic is entirely real, but most adults have lost that childlike innocence of believing without question. Maybe the adults in Mary Poppins Returns are so wrapped up in their own lives that it's not until the end of the movie, when a spring fair is taking place, that they are able to relax and have fun, thus enabling them to experience the magic once more.
The grim alternative is that Mary Poppins is not magical at all. That it's simply her attitude, demeanor, and stern yet uplifting encouragement that helps us all to see the magic in everyday life. Maybe, instead of taking the children on an underwater adventure, she simply makes their bathtime fun by telling stories that let their imagination take flight. It could be that when Georgie breaks the bowl, she weaves an elaborate tale about the characters on it, to stop him from feeling so bad. If Mary Poppins isn't magical, then the ending takes on a different meaning. Rather than actually flying, each character is coming to terms with past events, and is filled with hope and joy as they realize there really is nowhere to go but up.
Page 2 of 2: Mary Poppins Returns' Ending Real Meaning
Mary Poppins Returns Is About Grief... And Joy
When Mary Poppins Returns first picks up with Michael Banks again, things are not going well for him or his children. It's been less than a year since his wife and mother to the children, Kate, died. We don't hear an awful lot about her, but it's very apparent that she was well-loved and is much missed by all. Mary Poppins Returns serves to work through the Banks family grief, and at the end, as everyone soars up high, they've found happiness again. Michael's loan has been cleared, his house is safe, and Mr. Dawes Jr. is back in charge at the bank. The children are happy to see their father happy, and there's the hint of a new romance for their aunt Jane and Jack.
For the young target audience that Disney attracts, it's tough to wrap your head around grief and loss, and so it's exciting to see Mary Poppins Returns present well-thought-out lessons on this topic, including a song telling us that "nothing's gone forever, only out of sight." This is a reassuring concept to young children (such as Georgie) and one that is simple to grasp. This helps the children move on, until they're ready to soar high once more. Another heartwarming aspect of Mary Poppins Returns is the closeness that Jane and Michael share; again, it's good for a young audience to see that it's OK to rely upon family for support in times of sadness.
Mary Poppins Returns Is Just One Story Of Many
All of P.L. Travers Mary Poppins stories focused on her adventures with the Banks family. In the two Disney movies, she comes ostensibly "to look after the Banks children" but in reality it's to help the whole family. In the case of George Banks, it was to enjoy his family again, and with Michael and Jane, it was to enjoy living again and moving on with life while treasuring the happy memories of Kate.
But as Mary Poppins Returns makes this much more about the residents of 17 Cherry Tree Lane. Everyone learns a lot about themselves in the movie, but her magic, or encouragement, or hope, or whatever you want to call it, doesn't just extend to the Banks family. Look how many people take to the skies with a balloon in their fist. Mary Poppins' influence stretches far and wide. Even William Wetherall Wilkins wants a turn at taking flight, and as the Balloon Lady tells him, there's nowhere to go but up. Starting and ending the film on "Lovely London Sky" really highlights the universality of the tale.
When needed, Mary Poppins comes and helps many, and when her presence makes everyone feel so good, it's easy to believe in magic.