‘Anything can be faked by anyone...’
I was already vaguely aware of the story of the Cottingly Fairies scandal. Two little girls who faked some photographs about fairies at the bottom of their garden and became mild celebrities back in the era when the lack of television meant that people could afford to spend their time discussing such matters, but I didn’t know that their whirlwind tale of deceit also involved Harry Houdini, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and… hold up? Mel Gibson? What?!
Elsie Wright (Florence Hoath) and her cousin Frances Griffiths (Elizabeth Earl) find themselves in over their heads when fairies begin to appear at the bottom of their garden. Elsie’s loving father Arthur (Paul McGann) tries to keep a lid on the situation (in vain, it must be said).
I don’t know how much of the film is accurate (obviously not any of the stuff with fairies), but I do know that the cast assembled here by director Charles Sturridge is genuinely insane. Paul McGann, as in ‘I’ from Withnail and I. Harvey Keitel, fresh from Pulp Fiction, for chrissakes. The legendary Peter O’ Toole. And then most inexplicably of all, Mel actual Gibson appears for the most unlikely cameo imaginable right at the end, surely the most outrageous cameo since Sean Connery turning up as Richard the Lionheart at the end of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves sporting the most Scottish accent any Scottish man has ever uttered. I honestly have no idea how any of this happened. This is a heart-warming story, sure. But honestly, it’s a very ordinary script. Sturridge was a TV director. And yet. Mel Gibson. I’m stunned.
In the end, the exceptional cast elevate a movie that does often feel made-for-TV. I would also argue that this story is too thin to be spread over a feature film, and even at just over 90 minutes, there is plenty of padding.
If you’re looking for a family film for everyone to enjoy then Fairytale: A True Story will do the trick. The problem is there are far superior films out there that do everything this film does and more. But then, I guess they don’t have Mel Gibson? So, what’s a guy to do?