written by Allan Knee and David Magee
directed by Marc Forster
starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Julie Christie
review by Stephen Notley
Do we find Neverland in Finding Neverland? We do, and as it is in Peter Pan it's a shifting no-place, delicate movements back and forth across the unknown boundary between child and adult, the sacrifices and opportunites of maturity.
Finding Neverland starts on a more adult footing than Peter
Pan, with Johnny Depp as James Barrie in 1903
Johnny Depp is the reason a lot of people are going to see
this movie, and he's good as he most always is, though unspectacular. In total
contrast to Depp's Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the
Directed by Marc Forster from a stage play, Finding
Neverland takes an unusual approach to the fantastical.
Finding Neverland works best as kind of a mirror-image of Peter Pan. Where Peter Pan is grounded in the perspective of a child uneasily facing the tantalizing challenges of maturity, Finding Neverland takes the view of an adult looking back, wistfully eulogizing the lost wisps of innocence, ruefully watching as children become grown-ups before his eyes. The kids who play the boys turn out to be ferociously honest little actors, particularly Freddie Highmore who plays Peter, desperately struggling with his grief over his father's death and his mother's illness, simultaneously needing and rejecting the make-believe of childhood and theatre.
Finding Neverland is a subtle film, an interesting counterpoint to last year's Peter Pan, and it's a tribute to the strength of the original play that the best moments of Finding Neverland are those that touch on it, from Barrie's first mused imagining of the boys drifting off their beds and out the window to the first performance of Peter Pan, in which Barrie has stocked the audience with children whose honest delight could puncture the unstated reserve of the seen-it-all professional-class theatregoing adults. As an alternate take on the themes of Peter Pan, Finding Neverland has something to say to anybody who's ever gotten older. Which, last time I checked, was everybody.