Wednesday, 23 September 2020
Finding Neverland
Thursday, 02 December 2004 16:31

Every time a child says 'I don't believe in fairies' there is a little fairy somewhere that falls down dead.

from Peter Pan


My first experience with "Peter Pan" was the Walt Disney version, back when Disney films were still being made with a commitment to quality and a dash of magic. Since then, I've read the novel and enjoyed more than one stage adaptation. So, it was with great excitement that I headed out to see Miramax's bio-pic "Finding Neverland".

Scottish born author J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) had little success as a playwright or as a husband. His childless marriage as cold as the reception of his plays. His interest is peaked when he meets the vibrant Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four lively young boys. Soon Barrie is caught up in the wonder and imagination of the children, where he finds the inspiration for Peter Pan and the Lost Boys who never want to grow up.

This gentle film marks yet another great achievement for Johnny Depp ("Pirates of the Caribbean"). His portrayal of Barrie is not saccharine sweet, but is instead delivered with soulful purity. Depp seems drawn to characters who are outsiders. More than once, in films like "Edward Scissorhands" or "Benny & Joon", he has shown that a child still hides beneath his surface.

Another shining performance is that of newcomer Freddie Highmore as young Peter Llewelyn Davies. He made such an impact that he will be going on to star with Depp in a remake of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"! Kate Winslet ("Titanic") and Radha Mitchell ("Man On Fire") are wonderful. Like fire and ice they are the opposing women in Barrie's life.

The main story is inter-cut beautifully with stylized scenes from a theatrical production of "Peter Pan". Whoever did the art direction on this did a fabulous job! The scenes are rich, vibrant and full of life.

Some issues were skimmed over in favor of keeping the subject matter suitable for families. After reading more about J.M. Barrie, I discovered that he was though to be impotent, which explains a lot. His strange relationship with his mother, and rumors of his being a pedophile are barely touched on in the script. It would have been interesting to delve a little further, but for everything gained there is a sacrifice. This film runs nicely on innocence.

"Finding Neverland" is a touching story told with skill and creativity. Oh, and don't forget your Kleenex. It's hard to avoid the waterworks!

If you liked "Finding Neverland" by all means check out the glitzy 2003 release of "Peter Pan" starring Jason Isaacs as a great Captain Hook. If biographical films are more for you then perhaps you will like "Iris" starring Judy Dench. Both of these films are available on DVD.