Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Feature commentary with director.
The Magic of Finding Neverland. Creating Neverland. Deleted scenes.
Outtakes. On the Red Carpet.
THE ever-youthful Johnny Depp provides another masterful turn
as Peter Pan creator, JM Barrie, in the enchanting Finding Neverland,
a genuinely moving look at what came to inspire one of the world's
greatest children's novels.
Set in London, in 1903, the film picks up as Scottish playwright,
Barrie (Depp), watches his latest play open to lukewarm reviews.
Hailed as a literary genius by the polite society of Edwardian
England, but bored by his themes and stuck in a loveless marriage,
Barrie yearns for some inspiration, which he unexpectedly finds
one day while taking his daily walk in Kensington Gardens with
his beloved St Bernard, Porthos.
It is here that he first encounters the Llewelyn Davies family
- four fatherless boys and their beautiful, recently-widowed mother,
Sylvia (Kate Winslet).
Despite the disapproval of Sylvia's steely grandmother, Emma
du Maurier (Julie Christie), and his own, increasingly distant
wife, Mary (Radha Mitchell), Barrie befriends the family and,
through his games with the boys, transforms their imaginations,
helping them to grow up and grieve for their father in the process.
His time with them also provides the spark for his own imagination
and it's not long before he is busy penning his next play, Peter
Pan, with the financial support of his sceptical producer, Charles
Frohman (Dustin Hoffman).
Yet while steeped in magical worlds and youthful innocence, Barrie's
timeless tale is born out of great tragedy, especially when it
becomes apparent that Sylvia is hiding her own illness from her
Finding Neverland, while only loosely based on true events, is
a richly rewarding, emotional rollercoaster of a movie, that succeeds
on just about every level it strives to achieve.
While shamefully manipulative during
its latter stages, the film is so beautifully constructed and
performed that you won't mind succumbing to its charms, as it
bears all the hallmarks of a classic tear-jerker, while also proving
tremendously uplifting to boot.
Director, Marc Forster (who previously helmed Halle Berry's Oscar-winner,
Monster's Ball), neatly
juggles the fantasy elements of the story with the tragedy that
surrounds many of the characters, so that the film never feels
heavy-handed or awkwardly sentimental.
As a result, viewers can relax and enjoy watching Barrie's imagination
unfold, while keeping sight of the constant visual inspirations
for the key roles in Peter Pan, as well as becoming invested in
the grown-up material, as Barrie attempts to cope with his failing
marriage, his growing feelings for Sylvia, and his emerging role
as father-figure to the children.
Depp, as ever, is on mesmerising form, but he is capably supported
by the likes of Winslet, Mitchell and Hoffman, not to mention
young Freddie Highmore, who is something of a revelation as Peter,
the quietest of Sylvia's sons, whose unspoken grief for his father
has forced him to grow up too soon, thereby suppressing his early
Through his friendship with Barrie, Peter learns to unlock his
imagination and rediscovers the innocence of youth, and it is
thanks to Highmore's understated performance that their relationship
works so well.
I doubt there will be a dry eye in the cinema by the time the
film reaches its heartbreaking conclusion.
Forster, too, deserves praise for the way in which he captures
the brilliance of Peter Pan, by injecting proceedings with several
dream-like fantasy sequences that really do recall the wonder
of Barrie's classic tale.
It serves to ensure that the film has something to offer all
viewers and which really should feature prominently come the awards
It is a magical experience from start to finish.