Opening 10 Feb 2005
“All characters, whether grown-ups or babes must wear a child’s outlook as their only important adornment.” This piece of direction written into the script of the original play of Peter Pan is a perfect summation of the spirit of Finding Neverland, a film inspired by the events in the life of Scottish author J.M. Barrie that led to him writing Pan. Neverland is a magical though emotional journey, directed by Marc Forster (Monster’s Ball) and starring the perfect boy-man, Johnny Depp, as Barrie. The film begins as Barrie is looking for inspiration after his latest play opens to poor reviews. He soon meets the Llewelyn Davies family: four boys and their recently widowed mother (Kate Winslet). Barrie befriends the family, and, despite the rumors that start circling through British society and the disapproval of Barrie’s proper wife (Radha Mitchell), starts spending a great deal of time with them. In an attempt to engage the boys, he creates wonderful imaginary worlds of castles and kings, cowboys and Indians, and pirates and castaways. Soon, Barrie has found the ideas for Pan, a story unlike anything British society has seen before, and the magic of the play transforms everyone from the audiences to the family whose adventures it’s based on.
Neverland is a feast for both the eyes and the mind, effectively conveying Barrie’s retreat to the happiness of childhood with the boys before they all must face the difficulties of growing up, and mixing the real with the imaginary using a vibrant visual style. Depp is outstanding – becoming almost a real-life Peter Pan – as is the rest of the cast, which also includes heavyweights Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie. The film cleverly highlights each instant where Barrie may have found inspiration for an element of Pan – not overdoing it, but just giving each scene enough resonance to bring the audience in on the joke. And though the ending tears your heart out, it beautifully demonstrates how imagination and finding something to believe in can get you through even the most difficult times in life. In all, Neverland is an amazing film, and despite a somewhat slow start, one that can transport you to a place well-worth finding. (Kirsten Greco)