Due to the subject matter, To Olivia (2021) is a difficult film to watch. It’s handled really well, but it’s still depressing. This isn’t a film to watch at the tail end of a global pandemic if you want cheering up.
Having said that, To Olivia has a decent script, it’s really well acted, and the production values are nice. It’s competent and stays within its scope, never overreaching itself.
The story is about Roald Dahl’s marriage to the Hollywood actress, Patricia Neal, and his relationship with his daughter, Olivia. It’s a difficult story that’s handled with sensitivity.
I was brought up with Roald Dahl’s wonderful stories for children. And then his short stories for adult readers. His short stories were dark and came with a signature twist ending. They don’t write them like that anymore.
There was a disturbing side to Roald Dahl, one that I’ve only recently become aware of. He was incredibly anti-semitic. It wasn’t casual racism, it was a visceral hatred of Jews. It’s difficult to reconcile his incredible stories with his anti-semitism. This makes an already difficult film arrive loaded with an even more troubling subtext, and one that isn’t covered in the film.