Finding Neverland (6/10)

by Tony Medley

Elizabeth Akers Allen should see this movie because it answers her laments:

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight.

Make me a child again just for tonight!

Finding Neverland answers both. On the bad side, every time I looked at my watch during the first 45 minutes, it seemed that the 101-minute running time had longer to go than the last time I had looked. On the good side, it does a good job of trying to make you a child again, just for the night.

This is based on the writer J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), who wrote over forty play, six novels, seven works of non-fiction and numerous collections, but the most famous was Peter Pan (1904), and this movie tells the story of how it came to be.

Barrie is trapped in a loveless marriage with Mary Ansell Barrie (a gorgeous Radha Mitchell). After a disappointing opening of one of his plays in 1903 he takes a walk in Kensington Gardens and runs into Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslett) and her four sons, Peter (Freddie Highmore), Jack (Joe Prospero), George (Nicholas), and Michael (Luke Spill). He becomes instantly involved with them all and regales them with preposterous stories of fantasy, which eventually become Peter Pan with the children as models for the characters in the play.

On another level the movie deals constantly with death. The boysí father has died and Sylvia is dying of cancer but wonít take any treatment for it. Further, her mother, Mrs du Maurier (Julie Christie) is a dominating woman who doesnít approve of anything Sylvia does and definitely does not approve of Barrie and his involvement with her daughter and her family.

All the actors are good, especially the boys. But itís just so slow. To be fair, Iíve never been a fan of Peter Pan or all that childrenís fantasy stuff. My friend who was with me loved the film. I canít recommend it because itís just too slow and Depp seemed to me like he was whispering most of his lines. Compound that with his heavy Scottish accent, and I couldnít understand much of what he said. Some people will like this, but many will find it very, very slow as did I.

November 10, 2004

The End