TV film review: Enid (2009), directed by James Hawes
I have to admit, I didn’t see the first half-hour or so of this when it was on BBC4 recently, but hopefully that hasn’t skewed my perception of it as a whole too much.
Enid is a biopic about English children’s author Enid Blyton (1897-1968). During her lifetime, she wrote over 700 books, selling millions of copies, and she still sells about 8 million every year. The most famous examples of her books include the Famous Five, Secret Seven and books about Noddy. Funnily enough, I’ve read neither. My Blyton reading has mainly been four (of six) St. Claire books and the Adventure books.
I started watching somewhere around the time where her husband was drinking and shortly after, the dog dies. She watched her husband bury it in the garden while she begins to type away on a story about how the dog came bounding in as usual. Then I went back to watching something else for a bit, and came back … not quite sure where.
Enid Blyton is played by the ever magnificent Helena Bonham Carter. She is very skilled at playing women who are more or less unhinged (Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter, Karen in The Revengers’ Comedies/Sweet Revenge and Morgan in Merlin – the latter two starring Sam Neill, huzzah!) and while it would be unfair to call Enid Blyton unhinged … she certainly wasn’t the sort of woman I thought she was.
What I, and what I’m guessing most people would think (and certainly the sort of image she wanted to portray when she was alive), is that she was this lovely woman who wrote lots of books that made lots of children very happy. A kind woman and a loving wife, perhaps if she had children, also a wonderful mother. It would seem reality was, shall we say, somewhat different.
A self-absorbed, callous bitch is one way of putting it. At least that’s how she came across in this production. Although, looking at her Wikipedia entry, it would seem that’s a truer image than the milk & cookies lady you’d imagine her to be. No wonder her husband (Matthew Macfadyen, whose portrayal is going between sad and heartbreaking) took to drinking. He agreed to take the blame for the failed marriage in order to keep up the Blyton’s child-friendly image, in return for unlimited access to their two daughters. How she thanked him?
However, after the divorce, Pollock was forbidden to contact his daughters, and Blyton ensured he was unable to find work in publishing afterward.
Charming, really. There was a scene that stands out in particular. He comes back home from the war, the daughters are absolutely delighted to see their father, whom they have missed, and his wife shows up, with a welcome along the lines of “oh. You’re back. How very inconvenient of you. Care to bugger the hell out of my life?”
Another scene is where Blyton and her new hubby (the man she was cheating on her husband with, played by Denis Lawson) are taking one of the daughters, Imogen, to the train station, and the girl locks the car doors so that her mother can’t get in, and when questioned, exclaiming “I don’t want her to come!” Imogen is played by Ramona Marquez, the little girl from Outnumbered. She doesn’t perhaps get to do an awful lot in this production, but when she does get to do or say something, it’s poignant. She was only 8 when Enid was made, but I reckon we should keep an eye out for her in the future, for I believe it might well be a bright one!
No, Enid Blyton, I’m afraid I have no sympathy for you. You might have been a very prolific writer whose books I rather enjoyed growing up, but … no. If we’re to add mitigating circumstances, perhaps her childhood caused her to be the way she was (indeed, as I said, I came into the film when she was already married). She lived in her own little world, and sure, we all engage in certain levels of escapism now and then – some more than others – but there’s a difference between casual escapism and refusing to acknowledge reality. Maybe that’s why she managed to write so many books – because in her own little bubble, she felt safe and happy. I can relate – we all can; that’s what escapism is for, but most of us recognise the need to also live in the real world, where we can’t just do what we like. We’ll dream away to charming old boarding schools but eventually, we come back to needing to sort out dinner, clean the cat’s litter tray and pay the mortgage.
I don’t think Enid Blyton really managed to connect with reality as an adult. She dealt with feelings of vulnerability by not dealing with them at all, but shoving them away to the back of her mind until they faded away (which she tells her daughter to do at one point), and by writing copious amounts of children’s literature. Well, at least the latter part is good – definitely beats over-eating.
A tought-provoking look at an iconic author nearly everyone anywhere in the world has at least heard of. Enid is by no means a happy story with a happy ending. It’s depressing at times, but it’s also well-scripted, well-acted, well-dressed, well-directed and not to mention darn interesting to watch. Just don’t expect to fall in love with the main character.
4.8 out of 5 typewriters.