To Olivia is promoted as “The true story of Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal“, yet only covers a couple of years in their life, so won’t be the whole story.
It begins in 1962, with Roald Dahl (Hugh Bonneville – Paddington 2) giving a talk to children about this then-new book, James And The Giant Peach which, at the time, didn’t sell as well or be as renowkned as it would be after the author’s death. However, in the wake of adversity, he begins composing his next tome – and the only one I know well – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We can see how he gets inspiration for one of the characters, as one of the kids at the talk is a rotund lad called Augustus.
His wife – and American movie star – Patricia Neal (Keeley Hawes – It’s A Sin) meets with him after the talk is over, and we learn how they had two daughters, Olivia and Tessa, and a son, Theo. Sadly, soon after ‘Peach’ is published, Olivia is diagnosed with measles encephalitis – an inflammation of the brain – and passes away later that year. Of the family, Roald deals with this very badly, regularly shutting himself away, sometimes to the shed with a bottle of red wine.
When you lose someone, you have that feeling of just not knowing what to do. You feel like you should know, but you don’t. As such, he sometimes reacts in irrational ways, such as while the wake goes on, Roald’s quickly packing Olivia’s stuff away, rather too early.
While in the shed, a vision of a small boy appears to him as he’s about to write ‘Charlie‘. I presume it’s himself as a boy, but it was not set out whether that’s the case, or a sort-of manefestation of the main character in his book, Charlie Bucket.
Geoffrey Palmer – in his final film role – plays an elderly priest who is there to help the Dahls come to terms with their grief, but after suggesting their daughter is in heaven, and in the place she would be happiest (the garden), there’s ire when Priest Fisher states her pets aren’t allowed in “God’s garden” because “they have their own afterlife“. Way to be a bit of a dick, Fisher.
Meanwhile, Patricia is trying to get her career back on track, much to Roald’s chargrin; and since she’s appearing in a film with Paul Newman, the brief appearance from Sam Heughan as the actor doesn’t seem to garner much of a true impression.
At times, To Olivia comes across as quite a sweet family drama before life takes a wrong turn, but while we all know grief is very hard, sadly, this film is rather dull for the most part.
Best to stick with the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie. Johnny Depp’s remake is pretty good, but I understand a Willy Wonka origin movie is on its way. Please don’t. Meanwhile, Dahl’s family were forced to apologise last year by a bunch of clowns who thought the author was anti-semitic. He wasn’t. Neither were the likes of Jeremy Corbyn. However, you can’t reason with the mainstream media and the Tories. Life would be better off without both of those.
To Olivia is on Sky Cinema from Friday February 19th, but isn’t yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
Check out the trailer below:
Running time: 95 minutes
Release date: February 19th 2021
Studio: Sky Cinema
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
Director: John Hay
Producers: Donall McCusker, Adrian Politowski, Nick Quested
Screenplay: John Hay, David Logan
Novel: Stephen Michael Shearer
Book: Patricia Neal – The Unquiet Life
Music: Debbie Wiseman
Roald Dahl: Hugh Bonneville
Patricia Neal: Keeley Hawes
Olivia: Darcey Ewart
Marty Ritt: Conleth Hill
Paul Newman: Sam Heughan
Geoffrey Fisher: Geoffrey Palmer
Pete Perkins: Michael Jibson
Young Doctor: Sam Phillips
Mourner: Grant Crookes
Gus Perkins: Bobby O’Neill
Boy: Bodhi Marsan
Tessa Dahl: Isabella Jonsson
Ambulance driver: Robert Jarvis
Ward Sister: Sarah Beckett
Senior Ward Sister: Jane-Charlotte Jones
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.