Can a CGI bear help us remember what it feels like to be the odd one out?
Sometimes it takes something a little unusual to make us put aside our differences and remember what we all have in common as humans.
And while a small, slightly eccentric CGI bear in a duffle coat may seem like an extraordinary metaphor for what it feels like to be an outsider, it definitely works with upcoming release Paddington 2.
But then Paddington, the movie’s sticky-pawed eponymous star, is no ordinary bear.
Born in darkest Peru and living in London with his adoptive human family, the Browns, the marmalade-loving mammal knows a thing or two about trying to fit in.
And no matter your age, race, ethnicity or gender, it’s something that the film’s director, Paul King, thinks speaks to the minds of all of us.
“Paddington’s a lovely image of what we all feel like sometimes, this little lost soul in a big world trying to fit in and not doing as good a job of it as we’d like,” he said.
“Everyone’s felt like a fish out of water, the first day they go to school or in a new job. I think we’re all doing that every day, trying to navigate the world.”
The struggle of finding his place in the world is aptly shown by the little bear in his second escapade, as he ventures out into his community and gets to know its members.
After seeing a perfect 100th birthday gift – a pop-up book – for his beloved Aunt Lucy in an antique shop, Paddington offers his services as an odd job bear to save up enough money for the surprise.
His trust in the goodness of people is severely tested when a nefarious burglar steals the book, and Paddington is wrongly put behind bars for the crime.
But following in the wake of a post-Brexit Britain racked by new waves of racism and xenophobic attitudes, the film’s simple warmth is underscored by a deeper subtext for kids that being an outsider can take many forms.
“Wouldn’t the world be a better place if it were filled with Paddingtons?” asked producer David Heyman, rhetorically.
“Particularly today, in these dark and difficult times, where there’s so much bad news, it’s rather lovely to put out something about community, about small acts of kindness, about seeing the good in people, and about love with a generous spirit.”
King agrees: “He’s a little stranger needing kindness, and that is a universal and timeless theme. It’s nice that it feels like it has some resonance now, and at the same time it’s rather sad that it has some resonance now. Certainly that spirit is as needed now as it ever has been.”
Also starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant, Julie Walters and Imelda Staunton
Running time: 105 mins
WORDS Camille Hogg