Grow Up with an Alcoholic Parent?


Grow Up with an Alcoholic Parent?
This Film Gets It!

When I sat down last night to watch Saving Mr. Banks with my family, my expectations were modest at best.  I felt pleased to find a rare PG rating without the 13 attached, and viewed our selection as an appropriate, child-oriented, family compromise.  We have always appreciated the story of Mary Poppins, so learning the back-story of the adaptation of the book into a film intrigued us all.

I was completely unprepared for the power and psychological depth of this film.

Based on the tale of Walt Disney's (Tom Hanks) 20 year effort to convince  author P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to sign over the rights over her beloved book, the film is a dual track tale about fathers and daughters.  On the surface, it is about Walt Disney's desire to fulfill his daughters' wish to make a film about a book they loved.  His determination to make this story fly off of the pages and into a film despite tremendous resistance from Travers is an obvious and even gratuitous testament to boundless fatherly love.  The tense but animated (pun intended) creative process of the film's creation is pure family entertainment.  On a deeper level, Saving Mr. Banks is about the lasting influence that fathers have on their daughters as told through the flashbacks to P.L. Travers' childhood and her intense and at times troubled bond with her alcoholic father. 

While working in Disney's office in Los Angeles in 1961 to collaborate on the adaptation of the film, Travers continues to flash back to her traumatic childhood.  Her memories crystalize the viewer's  understanding of the inspiration for her classic tale.  Travers' childhood experience tells a psychologically compelling story about how growing up in an alcoholic family produces scars that may never fully heal.  Her past lingers in her present and influences her conscious and unconscious experiences in her approach to the world.

Saving Mr. Banks alludes to and explores an interesting psychological concept called sublimation.  Sublimation is a mature and resilient coping mechanism in which pathological impulses or traumatic experiences are transformed into socially acceptable actions or creations.  Such actions or creations have the healing potential to convert impulses and mend old wounds.  It becomes obvious that Travers wrote Mary Poppins in order to work through her past and celebrate her father's creative energy and unmet potential. 

This article was originally published at DC Counseling & Psychotherapy Center . Reprinted with permission.
Article contributed by
Advanced Member

Elisabeth LaMotte


Social worker, psychotherapist, blogger and author of "Overcoming Your Parents' Divorce"

Location: Washington, DC
Credentials: LICSW, MFT, MSW
Specialties: Communication Problems, Dating/Being Single Support, Divorce/Divorce Prevention
Other Articles/News by Elisabeth LaMotte:

A Therapist's Review Of 'Romantics Anonymous'


Most of us experience some form of social anxiety. We may feel nervous before a social gathering or slightly agitated during group activities. In the extreme, social anxiety compromises the ability to connect to another person in an intimate relationship. Jean-Pierre Ameris' 2010 French film, Les Emotifs Anonymous, is a comedic but meaningful study of what ... Read more

Robin Williams And Cinema Therapy


Cinema therapy is an aspect of psychotherapy that is gaining attention these days. This approach involves the therapist's suggestion of various films that relate to the issues the client wants to address. Film's power to help and to heal, and therefore complement that therapeutic process, may be one of the most interesting aspects of practicing ... Read more

How Our View Of Relationships And Breakups Changes As We Age


Intimate relationships are a primary focus in psychotherapy. Through therapy, people examine their closest relationships in order to determine what aspects of their approach to others work well for them, and what aspects of their approach they might want to change in order to form healthier attachments. In order to figure this out, it helps to look at current ... Read more

See More