Nanny McPhee Returns– Movie Review

Nanny McPhee Returns – Movie Review

Review by Stacey Tuttle

When you need me but don’t want me, I must stay.
When you want me but don’t need me, then I must leave.

 Told through whimsy and magic in a manner reminiscent of Marry Poppins, Nanny McPhee is a morality tale that’s fun for all ages.  The ugly, warty Nanny McPhee undergoes a physical transformation as dramatic as the children’s, her ugly features disappearing as the children learn 5 lessons: don’t fight, share, help each other, be brave, have faith.  These are great lessons and easily applicable to young children (my favorite being the lesson of having faith even when all the facts point to the contrary).  However, as I watched the movie, I was struck by the strange sadness of it and filled with gratefulness for how different Christ is from Nanny McPhee.   

You see, Nanny  McPhee had to leave. The moment they grew to love and appreciate her, she had to leave; and this leaving is was sad for her as it was for them.  And it’s not as if something came up unexpectedly.  She knew from the beginning that she would be leaving.  In fact, she warned them, “When you want me but don’t need me, then I must leave.”  I understand that sometimes people have to say goodbye, and that she was there to help out in the “gap” so to speak.  So, I’m not trying to ruin the movie or say that it was inappropriate for her to leave.  Sometimes we need extra help to get by.    That’s reality. 

But, it’s not enough to admit that we need extra help from time to time, the truth is we need help ALL the time, just sometimes more obviously than others.  From a strictly human point of view, the story of Nanny McPhee could subtly imply that we can make it on our own most of the time and only need a bit of gap coverage from time to time.  But what if that is how God treated us?  What if God said to us, “The moment you learn to rely on me and trust me, the moment you learn to really want my help and depend on it, then I’m going to withdraw it, then I have to leave and you are on your own.”?    It’s true, Jesus did have to leave.  But he didn’t just disappear, nor did he withdraw his help.  He gave a replacement in a sense, a helper, his Holy Spirit.  Not only did he replace himself, but he said it would be better for us (a better help) if he left and sent His Holy Spirit.

After a few key things happened, the kids didn’t really need Nanny McPhee anymore.  She helped secure for them the resources they needed.  Social resources:  they learned the five lessons which meant they had the social skills to work things out for themselves.  Physical resources:  their farm was secure.  Relational resources:  their father returned.  But we need more than a few social skills, monetary assets and the right relationships (a mom and dad, a spouse, a few friends, a … fill in the gap with whatever you think you need) to survive on our own.  God is not about the business of equipping us for life independent of him.  His goal is not to make us self-sufficient.  It’s actually opposite.  He wants to make us dependent, utterly and completely, on Him.  As we lean on him more, trust him more, we see our increasing need of Him.  Like a good addiction, we have a little taste, we see that it is good and we want more, need more.  Our dependence on our addiction should grow.  We should become increasingly aware of our need, our desperation for Him.  There is no warning that He will leave us once we learn to love Him.  Rather, he promises us that He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us.  It’s a beautiful thing! 

Questions for Discussion:

  • Nanny McPhee taught five basic lessons.  Which of those lessons come easily for you and which could you use a refresher course on?
  • In the movie, faith was feeling things in your bones – even when all the “facts” said that particular feeling in the bones was wrong.  Have you ever felt something you knew had to be true, even when the facts seemed to deny it?
  • The kids reached a point of desperation and cried out, “Nanny McPhee we need you!”  Have you ever reached a similar point of desperation and called out to God that you needed him?
  • How does it make you feel to know that God won’t ever leave your or forsake you?