REVIEW: Roald & Beatrix – The Tail of the Curious Mouse (2021)
While Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse is marketed as the true story of the meeting of six-year-old Roald Dahl (Harry Tayler) and an aging Beatrix Potter (Dawn French), it does take a while to get to that point.
Really this quaint film is more about young Roald dealing with the grief and life changes of losing his father and older sister in such a short space of time, and Beatrix having to deal with looming deadlines than the meeting of two great literary minds.
Young newcomer Harry Tayler does a fine job as a young Roald Dahl. He is thoughtful and adventurous but also fearful for the future. Jessica Hynes plays his mother Sophie and she’s a standout, her accent especially is interesting and impressive as it’s a mixture of Norwegian and Welsh. The two of them work really well together, both in scenes where Sophie is trying to cheer Roald up and they’re laughing together, or when she encourages him to go into the room where his father is laid to rest.
Dawn French is good fun as the aging author who is dealing with writer’s block and the fact she’s in denial about her failing eyesight. Her interactions with the animals on her farm are enough to put a smile on your face. Beatrix likes to let her elderly pig Sally into the house so she can keep warm and often chases the duck Sago around the farm with a knife in her hand in the hope to cook him for dinner. All much to the bemusement of her long-suffering husband William (Rob Brydon). Look, if there’s animals being amusing that’s enough to brighten things up for a moment.
Like a lot of British TV dramas (as that’s where Roald & Beatrix debuted over Christmas in the UK) there are lots of actors who are easily recognisable from other British TV staples. For instance, Gavin & Stacey’s Alison Steadman is a kind café owner, while Nina Sosanya (Will’s mum in His Dark Materials) is the pushy representative from Beatrix’s publisher. Even Ted Lasso’s Nick Mohammed makes an appearance. And then there’s Bill Bailey who is credited as Bona Fide Gent and his appearance is really quite bizarre and somewhat out-of-place compared to everything else that’s going on.
Having Roald & Beatrix being set at Christmas with Beatrix’s farm all covered in snow adds a little whimsey and magic to it all. It’s an idyllic place and it’s no wonder it’s somewhere that young Roald wishes to run off to when everything is getting too much. That being said, Roald & Beatrix is quite a slow, melancholy film. The fact that the meeting of Roald and Beatrix doesn’t happen until the last fifteen minutes means that if that’s what you were going into this film for, you’re likely to be disappointed.
It’s a little difficult to tell who this film is for. While it’s mostly well-suited for family viewing, with a bit of childish humour, some stop-motion animation sequences, and real animals running amok, it’s all sprinkled into a slow-paced plot that’s more character driven, focusing on the hardships both Roald and Beatrix are facing. Roald & Beatrix attempts to show audiences, young and old alike, that life isn’t easy or always kind – a message that both Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter would often put in their books. However, the film itself seems to be more focused on teaching a lesson, whether to the audience or to its titular leads, rather than offering an all-round entertaining and compelling story.
It’s a nice thought that two legendary British children’s authors had a chance to meet albeit briefly. However, for all intents and purposes Roald & Beatrix is a pleasant film, but not something that will really make an impact.