Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Movie Review: Finding Neverland

Title: Finding Neverland
Author: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet,
Release Date: 2004
Genre: biography, drama, family, Peter Pan
My Rating: ****
Official Rating: PG for mild thematic elements and brief language
Age Group: acceptable for 10+, enjoyable for 16+

Sir James Matthew Barrie, author of Peter Pan, or Peter and Wendy, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, or...suffice it to say there were many more versions of this story than the average reader is aware of. While that might be the case, the origin is all the same. Barrie befriended the Llewelyn Davies boys. They're young and adventuring in the local park when he first meets them. Apparently Michael has been put in jail by the evil Prince George. Well jail turns out to be Barrie's park bench, and when he finds out Michael was put there for being a younger brother, he calmly explains that he cannot help him, because there is no way around that sentence. Distracted by his conversation with the boys, Barrie doesn't notice when his dog Porthos wanders off. Mrs. Davies brings him back, trailing behind her her other two boys. Barrie offers a bear show starring Porthos. The boys agree. Thus begins a fantastic friendship.
Barrie imagines adventures and the boys follow along eagerly. Mrs. Davies is incredibly grateful for the joy Barrie brings the boys, especially so soon after their father's death. Peter is particularly hard to grow close to, but eventually even he becomes enamored with the games.
But wonderful things don't last forever. There is always sickness, or marital problems, or a crabby old grandmother.

Word of Warning
  •  There are suggestions (relatively veiled) that Barrie is having an affair with Mrs. Davies. This is far from the truth (even in real life), and he disagrees with these firmly (as does everyone else involved, except his wife, who isn't sure).
  • Barrie's wife does run off with another man, but this is done very discretely as well.
  • A veiled hint that Barrie is a pedophile, which is why he spends so much time with the Davies boys.  Barrie is very angry at this, and loudly counters that that is a horrible thing to say, that they are young and innocent children and that would be an evil thing to do. This entire conversation is very well handled, to the point where I highly doubt any younger viewers would understand it.
  • A character falls ill, eventually dying. this is very hard on other characters, especially given the context.
  • Social drinking, but nothing problematic.
  • Language: shit used twice, crap used twice (these are estimates, not exactly numbers)
My Thoughts
If you watch this movie, be prepared to tear up, possibly even cry.
And you should watch this movie. Not because it's the story behind the creation of Peter Pan (or Peter and Wendy, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, or any of its other titles). Not because it stars a very talented cast. Not even because it's the story of a famous and skilled author.
No, you should watch this movie because it's beautiful. Aesthetically, maybe. But the very story itself is beautiful. It's full of goodness amid the suffering, and it's the goodness that brings the tears.
It's full of beauty and goodness that you don't want to miss.

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