Finding Neverland In Review
Do you like the Peter Pan story?
Winter in New England usually means movie marathons, at least for me. Yesterday, thanks to a Nor’easter, I had a great marathon. With the snow piling up outside, you know you should go out and shovel. Yet, you also know that the original snow (plus a few inches more) will still be there in an hour…two hours…six hours. Though it would be smart to shovel and then watch the movies, you have this overwhelming need and waiting won’t do. Shoveling in the dark isn’t that bad. You’re a pro at shoveling in the dark. You’ll keep telling yourself that anyway.
One of the movies I watched was the 2004 Johnny Depp/Kate Winslet film, Finding Neverland. Based on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee, it is the story of how the classic children’s play Peter Pan came to be. To summarize, its playwright, J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp), has had a series of flops. When his producer, Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman), makes it clear that he won’t be able to fund Barrie’s work for much longer, Barrie promises to create something original and interesting. When he encounters the Llewelyn-Davies Family for the first time, it becomes clear to him that such a play might be possible. With their help and inspiration, in particular their mother, Sylvia (Kate Winslet), and middle brother, Peter (Freddie Highmore), he easily develops the script for the now famous play. While his producer doesn’t immediately believe in the project, he eventually realizes how unique and, most importantly to him, profitable it is.
Though you may realize, if you do your research, that the film has many factual flaws, you can’t deny that the movie is pretty good. The script is well-written (David Magee), albeit a tad melodramatic at points. Though you’re left wanting more, the director (Marc Forster) pieces together fantasy and reality seamlessly. The casting choices are fantastic. Depp and Winslet, make a great pair causing you to wonder what might have been had Winslet’s character not passed away. Separately, they are just as good. Depp is a perfect mixture of man and child, shining most when at play. Winslet’s character could’ve been fleshed out more, but she leaves a lasting impression. The real star of the movie is the young Freddie Highmore. Five years later, we know how much of a solid actor he is. In 2004, he was unknown, but just as solid. He matches wits perfectly with Depp. He breaks your heart and makes you smile almost within the same sentence. I am so happy he hasn’t faded into obscurity like so many other promising child actors have.
What I like most about this movie is that you are a party to the playwriting process. You are taken on the journey from concept to the play’s success. By watching this movie, you understand the Peter Pan story on a different level. It is evident that Barrie was inspired by everything, his mind turning everyday actions into the unique and surreal. He inspires all of us to use our imaginations to the fullest and to never give up on our dreams.
Though once just a children’s story, to me, Peter Pan is now a lesson on life. As one of the movie characters, Mrs. Snow, states, “I suppose it's like the ticking crocodile, isn't it? Time is chasing after all of us, isn't that right?” Life is precious. Every passing minute is one more minute that we will never have again. By growing up and allowing adult worries into small minds, we lose a piece of our true selves. Though believed by many to be necessary in order to live responsible lives, imagination and adventure should not fade away once we’ve passed a certain point. On the contrary, in order to truly live, you must hold on to your imagination very tightly, using it whenever you can. True as it is that we must all age and take on the roles our parents took, we will ever remain inside the young person who dreamed of worlds beyond our own and fairy tale happiness.