Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday August 14, 2019 


In wartime Britain, Nanny McPhee (Emma Thompson) appears at the door of a harried young mother, Mrs. Isabel Green (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is trying to run the family farm while her husband is away at war. But once she's arrived, Nanny McPhee discovers that Mrs. Green's children are fighting a war of their own against two spoiled city cousins who have just moved in. Money is tight and gambling addicted Uncle Phil (Rhys Ifans), who owns half the farm, tries to persuade Isabel under false pretences to sell. Through the ups and downs as strange things occur, Nanny McPhee proves herself to be invaluable as she uses her magic to teach her charges five important lessons.

Review by Louise Keller:
Piglets proficient at synchronised swimming, a pen-kleptomaniac baby elephant and a black bird with excessive wind are some of the colourful ingredients in this heart-warming children's film sequel in which Emma Thompson's unlikely nanny heroine teaches her unruly young wards life's great lessons. The piglets play a key role in the plot too as they do somersaults, climb trees, play scrabble and count to 10 in French, as well as effectively saving the farm from being sold. Oh, and I almost forgot: they fly, too.

It has been five years since the original film and Thompson has again written a delightful script based on Christianna Brand's much loved books as she reprises her role as the odd-looking nanny with warts, bulbous nose and protruding tooth who appears without warning when she is most needed. The setting is wartime rural Britain and Maggie Gyllenhaal has a lovely presence as the sweet-natured, frenzied Isabel, young mother of three, juggling the impossible as she does her best to keep their farm running while her husband is at war. Hysteria reaches its peak as the children are at loggerheads with their precocious city cousins, newly arrived by purple Rolls Royce to 'The Land of Poo' from the 'Land of Soap and Indoor Toilets'. That's when the foreboding, distinctive profile of Nanny McPhee appears in the doorway and her ugliness gradually blossoms into beauty as the five lessons she teaches about courage, kindness, selflessness, resolve and leaps of faith are learned.

Much of the humour is broad with slapstick and pratfalls as Rhys Ifans's despicable Uncle Phil (hotly pursued by two blonde hit ladies, Miss Topsy and Miss Turvey) tries to persuade Isabel to sign the deed of the financially-challenged farm. All the characters beyond the central ones are larger than life and it only takes a firm tap of Nanny McPhee's crooked stick for the magic to begin. Maggie Smith is the eccentric shop owner who thinks a cowpat is a cushion and Ralph Fiennes adds gravitas as the gruff army man in a high position. All the youngsters are delightful. As we are told from the beginning, Nanny McPhee can only stay when she is needed and not wanted; only too soon, she is wanted and not needed and sadly, it is time for the story to end. This is a sweet film with a heart as soft as marshmallows. And of course the marshmallows are pink, the colour of the piglets that rival Esther Williams' routines in the local pond.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(UK/France/US, 2010)

CAST: Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Maggie Smith, Rhys Ifans, Asa Butterfield, Bill Baily

PRODUCER: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Lindsay Doran

DIRECTOR: Susanna White

SCRIPT: Emma Thompson (Nurse Matilda books by Christianna Brand)


EDITOR: Sim Evan-Jones

MUSIC: Not credited


RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Victoria: March 25, 2010; elsewhere April 1, 2010

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019