Title: Fairy Tale: A True Story
In 1917, two girls with very active imaginations take a photo of what appear to be fairies. Their photos create a sensation, especially among believers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O’Toole) and members of the Theosophical Society. The non-believers in this story are represented by Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel) who is gently skeptical as he continually performs magic of his own. The movie is based on the true story of the Cottingley Fairies.
Ages 8 and up
The filmmakers keep a sense of wonder throughout as they tell the story of Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths. They definitely come down on the side of the believers while using the skeptics for dramatic effect. The fantasies of children enamored of fairies are in no danger.
There is a subplot about Elsie’s deceased brother who was the one to kindle her interest in fairies. There is a creepy moment late in the movie when the nosy reporter, seemingly having found the evidence to debunk the girl’s story, has an encounter with the boy’s ghost. Some kids might find it unsettling even though it is pretty mild. Otherwise, there is very little in the movie for parents to object to. It has a PG rating for mild language, which I didn’t even notice.
Ever since our daughter abandoned princesses years ago she has been a big fan of fairies. She has dipped her toes into the Disney Fairies franchise and can comment knowledgeably on any of their characters but her interest goes well beyond the Disney milieu. She enjoys building fairy houses for our garden and studying fairy lore from many different sources and has a dollhouse that’s a kind of arboreal fairy condominium. I’ve been aware of this movie for a long time but I was reluctant to show it to her because, being aware of the original story, I knew that there has always been a great deal of controversy around the photos. The girls themselves fessed up to the hoax in 1983. I didn’t want the movie to accidentally break her suspension of disbelief but I needn’t have worried. The filmmakers are eager to embrace the magical with Houdini’s almost non-existent objections and actually showing fairies moving around where the adults just can’t see them. In the end our daughter loved this movie and the magic of fairies continues in our house for another day.
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