It is perhaps a sad commentary on our times—or on my own twisted imagination—that when I saw the title of the film Audre Myers‘s reviewed this week, I thought it might have something to do with Michael Jackson’s troubled, unusual relationships with minors.
Fortunately, that was not the case (which would have been quite incongruous for Audre), and instead she offered up a lovely review of what sounds like a lovely film.
There seems to be a whole genre of these films now, something that might be called a “whimsical biopic.” They tend to focus on harmlessly eccentric Brits who lived quirky lives and created memorable children’s book characters or the like.
Well, I’m all for them. Give me a rose-tinted view of historic Britishness any day!
With that, here is Audre’s review of 2004’s Finding Neverland:
For clarity, I’m a hopeless Anglophile. If I hadn’t been blessed to be born in the greatest country, I would want to be born in England. Just so you know.
Released in 2004, Finding Neverland is the story of how J. M. Barrie came to write his best known play, Peter Pan. It stars Johnny Depp. Now – before you decide you have dusting to do or anything else that will take you away from reading this; hold your horses. While I enjoyed Benny and Joon (1993) and Edward Scissorhands (1990), they were nothing compared to Depp’s acting in Neverland. This is a seasoned, reasoned, and focused film star at his very best – the top of his game. He has great control of his characterization of Barrie; he could have gone over the top, especially in the scenes with the children but he takes his character to a fine point and no further. He is never one of the children but an astute observer and interpreter of the children. We never see the crazy Depp – which can be pretty entertaining – we see J.M. Barrie rediscovering boyhood and enjoying (with the famous reserve of the English) those moments.
Story is J.M. Barrie is already an accomplished playwright, married to a woman who had an unrealistic idea of what being married to a famous playwright would be like. Radha Mitchell plays the wife well; perhaps, too well, as there is little empathy we feel toward her character. On a day like any other, Barrie has gone, alone, to the park to people-watch and make notes about things he may one day develop into a story. While he is there, he meets three young boys, brothers, and they become his focus on that day. The boys are there with their mother. The boys are continuing a game they started earlier and the youngest of the boys is actually lying beneath the bench on which Barrie is sitting. So begins a journey and a friendship. And an enduring love.
Freddie Highmore plays the middle son and his acting ability is amazing. He has three scenes in the movie that will absolutely capture your heart. We also get to see a comical character, Barrie’s business partner (the money man), played very well indeed by Dustin Hoffman. The adult love interest is played by Kate Winslet and she is endearing in this role. Julie Christie plays Kate Winslet’s mother and she definitely has the rigidness of the upper class down pat. She’s chilling – in a very propah English way, of course.
But these are just details, the bullet points so to speak. What this movie is – is charming. It is genteel, like the time in which it takes place. It is filled with fun and adventure. It reminds us of our own childhoods. It touches our heart in such a way that we feel we are in the story rather than simply watching the story. I have to tell you, when I watched this movie for the first time, I remembered watching on television, when I was a child, the very first presentation of Peter Pan and being wide-eyed when Mary Martin as Peter Pan ‘flew’ across the stage. That sense of wonder is fully part of the remarkable story and film.
I love this movie. I sincerely hope that you enjoy it as well. You can find it on Amazon Prime for $3.99 rental fee.