Finding Neverland (2004): Movie Review

“An amalgamation of reality and  fairytale”

“Finding Neverland” is a wonderful film from the renowned director Marc Forster. It’s a film that brims with emotions, right from the beginning; An amalgamation of reality and  fairytale. It tells the story of the creator of Peter Pan, J.M Barrie, who lived in England during the 17th century. Johnny Depp plays the role of Barrie, who is a playwright. The film also has Kate Winslet playing Sylvia Davies, a widow struggling to bring up her four boys.
Barrie is a well known playwright in London, but who has been declining lately with his plays. At the beginning, the scene opens to the night at the theater, where his play is about to begin. Barrie who is worried about the response, never appears to welcome the audience, rather leaves it to Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman), the theater owner. The opening scene is really spectacular, in the way it depicts the people, the theater and all the theatrical paraphernalia of that time. His play, attended by a high class audience of businessmen, artists, and other theater lovers, fails to impress again. The reason being his wild but childish imagination.

Barrie is married, but he lives a loner’s life -giving more priority to his work and plays, than spending time with his wife. One day Barrie meets a boy named Michael, while he was out in the park for a walk and before settling down to write. He eventually meets his mother Sylvia Davies and his three brothers George, Jack and Peter (a specially talented boy), who recognizes him immediately as the popular playwright in town. He performs a small play for them with his dog ‘Porthos’, at the park, just to amuse them. The director has shot these scenes in the most magical way!

Their relationship grows stronger. Barrie becomes more free and open when he spends time with them. The boys start experiencing merry moments like never before, after their father’s death. But this draws the attention of the people around, and Sylvia’s mother Mrs.Maurier (Julie Christie). Rumors start spreading wide, about Barrie and Sylvia, after Barrie takes the Davies family to his summer cottage. Well, even we can feel the tension between them. But Barrie pays no heed to them, and his mind and heart, involuntarily, gets devoted to this family with their every moment together. This leads to a rift in his personal life, with his wife. The Davies family also inspires him to write his next play, in which he includes the joyous kite flying experience, the pirate skit they enjoyed, and he uses the young lad Peter’s name for a character, in his play.

Sylvia, is often taken down by her illness. This is also another reason why Barrie feels for this family, and particularly the children. In fact, Barrie’s affection towards children and childhood are evident from his plays. Eventually her illness becomes chronic, and she’s on her sickbed. Barrie who is about to display his long toiled work, specially invites the Davies family to it, but Sylvia not being able to make it. Charles Frohman, the theater owner, though supportive, still has a hard time getting over the experience Barrie’s play gave to the audience the last time. But Barrie himself finds the solution to get the crowd in his hand, and asks Frohman to keep aside 25 seats in the theater randomly, for some special guests. It works out successfully!

The film has a tearful yet wondrous ending. Barrie takes Sylvia to Neverland, at the end of the film, the place where every child wants to be- with fairies flying around, cute animals playfully moving about, the most peaceful destination imaginable! The performances by Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Julie Christie are remarkable, but I’m a bit disappointed that Hoffman wasn’t given much room with his character to showcase his expertise. But the greater contribution to the film, came from the child actors, especially Freddie Highmore who played Peter.

This film is a masterpiece.

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