Miss Potter instantly came across to me as being a dull recollection of the life of just another dead author. But this movie is far from that. It turned out to be a moving and beautifully told story of the beloved children’s writer and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, a woman who created the timeless story of Peter Rabbit and who led a far more interesting life than most would believe. Her steadfastness and determination to publish her stories remains constant throughout the film without ever losing sight of her charming youthfulness. The debate as to whether it all gets a happy ending is a little ‘touch-and-go’ but ultimately leads to a highly enchanting movie.
Beatrix (portrayed by an unlikely Renée Zellweger) has ambitions to publish her picture books and little else, much to the ire of her mother (Barbara Flynn) who wants her to marry into status before she becomes unmarriable. Beatrix’s unwavering focus is fulfilled when she meets Norman Warner (Ewan McGregor) of Warner Brothers publishing. He falls fast in love with both Beatrix and her books, and together they carefully arrange publication. This starts a beautifully innocent romance between the once snickered about and lonely.
Yet everything can’t be about cute woodland animals. The pairing of Beatrix and Norman slowly molds into a tragic love story when Norman becomes ill. Miss Potter painfully shows us that Beatrix Potter had a very sad and lonely period in her life which was in stark contrast to her drawings of the happy animals she attempted to hide behind. Watching her deal with the hard shock of reality, which amounted to her conforming to the status quo, growing up and losing childhood innocence made it hard not to break into tears at times.
The Lake District scenery and the gut-wrenching, doomed love reminded me a lot of Becoming Jane and the story of the young Jane Austen and her lover Tom Lefroy. Both were also filmed in a similar fashion – long, sweeping artistic shots and powerful sequences were used to capture every nuance. The most memorable scene in the movie was the first and last kiss shared between Beatrix and Norman on a railway, with the smoke from the train covering them – it captured every emotion possible in that one instant. However, the story of Miss Potter did seem to lack some of the long-drawn emotional intensity that Miss Austen’s biography had.
So with that said, I do feel it’s a bit extreme for this film’s tag line to be the over-zealous: “One of the greatest love stories never told”. I certainly agree the amazing personal life of the world’s favourite children’s illustrator has definitely been well told in this piece but Becoming Jane was a better movie all around. I still highly recommend Miss Potter though. The delicate and precise camera work from director Chris Noonan capturing the stunning British scenery and the engaging tragic romance, coupled with the brilliant acting from Renée Zellweger sums up to a powerful story, that quite frankly, more people should know about.