The Paddington sequel, the ‘best rated film of all time’, failed to win a single BAFTA; was completely ignored by the Academy; and has financially earned less than its predecessor: disappointing, to some. However, this lack of accolades are irrelevant to what made Paddington 2, without doubt, the most impactful film of 2017. It is a testament to the importance of bringing positive British values into a global age.
The sequel follows Michael Bond’s red-hatted bear as he attempts to purchase his beloved aunt a picture book of London. Paddington still resides with the Browns in a pastiche of London, which folds together the aged artefacts from the ombre tinted pages of Bond’s stories with a hectic, more current, city.
Paddington has been called anti-Brexit, and although it’s hard to make a statement of any sort, these days, without being associated with some high-flying political viewpoint, I don’t believe this was the film’s direct intention.
Paddington isn’t anti- or proBrexit. He’s a talking bear. He is a child himself, and sees the world with an innocent, and at times bumbling, touch that we could all learn from. Paddington is pro-listening, he is pro-compassion, and he is a bear who believes in truth. You can attach whatever boorish policy view or action to those beliefs, and in a post-truth world you’d be hardpressed to be proven wrong.
Treating individuals unlike ourselves with a sense of care has been a common theme in children’s films for decades: you will find the same ethical strands in E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, How to Train Your Dragon, and Monsters Inc. So why now are these sentiments seen as political views on isolationism? Why is an adolescent mammal’s considerate behaviour a comment on Brexit, anymore than the same character’s habitation of a West End Flat a clear-cut metaphor for the London rent crisis?
Paddington doesn’t stand with a political viewpoint, he stands with compassion. Whether you’d like to believe it or not, these core values still represent the citizens of our modern society. You’d be hardpressed to find someone who doesn’t like the concept of communication. If you give someone the space to be listened to, they might not finish the discussion agreeing with you, but they will make an effort to understand your thoughts too.
Paddington 2 represents those deeply held values, in its whimsy and playfulness, by reminding us that: should a president be offering guns to teachers; should a country malign a union; should a person be segregated by a community – everyone deserves to be cared for.
Paddington finds himself in prison with convicts, as frightening as is appropriate for a kids film. He does not forget, as an ursine anglophile, to be polite and kind – to listen and be compassionate to the views he might be afraid of. In doing so, he changes the environment around him for the better, and makes friends of those he might fear. It is a representation of our modern society which exists but, behind the ruckus of proliferated ignorance, is often not seen: a willingness to acknowledge our fears, and to find the positives past the fearmonger’s gates.
Paddington, with difference cemented into his DNA, isn’t scared of change and the unorthodox. He muddles through, working hard to show kindness to all those around him, with a beneficial empathy any child, or adult, can see. Paddington’s issues in prison begin because he is not heard in court. Each character has their lives impacted by a lack of compassion. Even the film’s antagonist’s issues stem from being ignored as a performer, a communicator. This amalgamation of tales that follow a common need is what makes the film exceptional, tightly written and to-the-point.
The film concocts introspective humour, as well as ‘Buster Keaton’ antics in a heart-warming tale. This mixture turns the reality on the other side of those cinema doors into a potentially cosy space: a world which feels like you’re drinking a steaming mug of tea and dunking a biscuit, while sitting in the curves of a well-worn sofa.
It is a film that offers us a positive outcome in a negatively charged environment. All it asks is for you to be someone you’ve always been: a young child with a sheepish innocence, that could disarm the grumpiest foe but harms no one.
Paddington 2 doesn’t need to be a box office success and have countless awards as proof of its impact. Its existence alone is proof that these beliefs are not going away; it is a bastion of love in a difficult world, and it is a representation of humanity’s innate belief in community. It is a film that will stand the test of time. It represents our society now, and will continue to represent it far into the future. It’s not a Brexit film, it’s a human film – about a bear.