Harry Potter 20th anniversary reunion review: prepare to fall in love with the wizarding world all over again

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 (Sky / HBO)
(Sky / HBO)

Like Professor Slughorn’s lily that transforms into a fish, the Harry Potter reunion is beautiful magic.

It may be 20 years since the world was introduced to the first film, but it’s like no time has passed. As fans cosy up and hit play to be transported back into the wizarding world by this 20th anniversary reunion special, they won’t be disappointed.

Appropriately enough, we kick off with the actors receiving letters from Hogwarts. Cue the theme music and it’s all aboard the Hogwarts Express to whisk us magically back to the Great Hall at the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

The nearly two hour-long show is broken up into chapters, where small groups from the cast sit together on various iconic sets to discuss their characters, overarching themes across the films and difficult moments for them as actors on set. The interviews are intercut with lines from the books and clips from the movies - a perfect marriage of storytelling for Potterheads familiar with both.

Daniel Radcliffe (handout)
Daniel Radcliffe (handout)

Fans may be surprised to know after all the fuss about her being left out that J.K. Rowling is, in fact, in the reunion special. An interview from 2019 is threaded throughout and it doesn’t feel awkward or as if there’s a gaping hole without a more up to date interview. Frankly, in the light of the controversy regarding her views on trans activism, her presence probably would have been a distraction from what fans actually wanted to see after 20 years, which is the cast, all grown up.

Not everyone can be here, of course. The show appropriately includes an ‘’in memory’’ section, where other members of the cast reflect on working with actors who have since passed away, such as Alan Rickman (Snape), Helen McCrory (Narcissa Black, wife of Lucius Malfoy), Sir Richard Harris (who played Dumbledore in the first two films), Richard Griffiths (Mr Dursley) and others. Make sure you have tissues to hand because you will definitely cry through this part – I did.

Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (Reuters / HBO Max)
Emma Watson and Rupert Grint (Reuters / HBO Max)

And there is new material and a fair few surprises, such as when Emma Watson admits she didn’t want to return to the franchise after the Goblet of Fire (I’m so thrilled she decided against that); Rupert Grint saying he blacked out when Watson had to kiss him in Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 (very Ron of him); or Daniel Radcliffe telling Helena Bonham Carter he wished he was 10 years older for her.

It’s nearly perfect.

If I had my way, I wish the reunion had included Sir Michael Gambon (Dumbledore) and more of a discussion of his character - after all, the new Fantastic Beasts series hinges on the mysteries of his youth. And I wanted to see a discussion of Snape and what I consider one of the biggest emotional turning points in the series – the revealing of Snape’s memories. This scene alone epitomises the incredible, intricate storytelling of Harry Potter.

Helena Bonham Carter (HBO)
Helena Bonham Carter (HBO)

What’s clear from the special is that Watson, Grint and Radcliffe were destined to play Hermione, Ron and Harry. The chemistry of the trio is as real off-screen as on, and the characters come across as merely extensions of the three young actors. And it is so heartwarming and sweet to watch them, as well as the rest of the cast, reminisce about these films that meant so much to them and to a generation. “I measure my life with these movies,” Grint says at one point. “Oh when did you pass your driving test? Order of the Phoenix”. “Every part of my life is connected to Potter,” says Radcliffe, perhaps with more reason than anyone.

Harry Potter is about the parallels of light and dark, good and evil. But it’s also about love and enduring friendships and coming of age, which is why it means so much to so many. In a lot of ways, my generation made sense of the world through the films, and saw ourselves in a group of characters that despite being misfits in different ways, find a place to belong. And the actors talk about relating to these characters in the same way, which unexpectedly made me love the story even more – something I thought impossible. As Watson says, “There’s something about Harry Potter that makes life richer. Like when things get really dark and times are really hard, stories give us places where we can go and rest and feel held.”

Watson with Tom Felton (Nick Wall / HBO / The Hollywood Archive / Avalon)
Watson with Tom Felton (Nick Wall / HBO / The Hollywood Archive / Avalon)

Prepare to have your heart swell. To laugh. To cry. To smile from ear to ear. And to fall in love with the magic of Harry Potter all over again.

Watch Harry Potter 20th Anniversary: Return to Hogwarts on New Year’s Day exclusively on Sky and streaming service NOW. NOW members can watch the TV specials with a NOW Entertainment Membership and enjoy all ten movies with a NOW Cinema Membership

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