The year is 1912. Seven-year-old Mary (Karen Dotrice, Mary Poppins) and her veterinarian father, Dr. McDhuis (Patrick McGoohan, Braveheart), live in a tiny village in Scotland. When Mary’s beloved cat, Thomasina, is euthanized by her father after suffering an injury, Mary swears never to speak to her father again.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“I am Thomasina. This story’s all about me. I’m a self-made cat.”
One of Disney’s most unusual stories adapted from Paul Gallico’s 1957 novel Thomasina, The Three Lives of Thomasina sensitively and charmingly deals with one of society’s last major taboos: death, specifically the death of a pet. The film also conveys perfectly the extraordinarily strong bond that can exist between pets and their owners.
The movie mixes humor and pathos nicely. There is also a heart-warming message about the special place animals occupy in our hearts. Although it could be accused of back-pedaling on the main issue (hint, hint, re-read the title), The Three Lives of Thomasina does show in vivid detail the difficulties of coping with sudden loss. Above all, I liked how the film proposes that knowledge, faith and love aren’t mutually exclusive.
All performances are first-rate. Irish-British actor Patrick McGoohan’s wonderfully acerbic performance as the Scottish veterinarian who has no love for his customers prevents the film from ever becoming too maudlin. More important, McGoohan’s Vet is essentially the story’s villain, and it is this character’s arc that gives the film its backbone. Thomasina’s witty and mostly sardonic remarks (voice provided by British actress Elspeth March, The Roman Spring of Mrs Stone) also cut through the sugar.
Karen Dotrice (film debut) is fantastic as the precocious Mary. Matthew Garber (film debut) is adorable as Dotrice’s mischievous friend. Apparently, “Uncle Walt” was so impressed with Dotrice and Garber that he immediately cast them as the Banks children in Mary Poppins (the youngsters appeared together for the last time in Disney’s The Gnome-Mobile). Susan Hampshire (A Time for Loving) is wonderful as a young woman who has a special way of treating wounded animals.
Imaginatively directed by Don Chaffey (Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog) (the kitty heaven sequence pays tribute to Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1944 classic A Matter of Life and Death) and lovingly filmed by Paul Beeson (To Sir, with Love) (it was partially filmed in Inveraray, Scotland). The title song (music and Lyrics by Terry Gilkyson, sung by American vocalist Robie Lester) is very good too. Paul J. Smith’s (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) incidental music is a big plus.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
I have buried many loved ones, but nothing, I mean nothing surpasses the deep pain I’ve experienced after the death of one of my pets — it’s like an open wound that will not heal. Walt Disney’s whimsical, but earnest The Three Lives of Thomasina is a loving paean to the unconditional love between animals and humans. Lassies and laddies, grab your tissues! Highly recommended! Color, 97 minutes, Rated G.