Finding Neverland
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Marc Forster
scr David Magee
with Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Radha Mitchell, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore, Nick Roud, Joe Prospero, Luke Spill, Dustin Hoffman, Kelly Macdonald, Ian Hart, Mackenzie Crook
release UK 29.Oct.04, US 12.Nov.04
04/UK 1h41

Pirates on parade: Depp and Highmore

winslet mitchell christie


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Finding Neverland Loosely based on true events, this inventive film examines the creative process while telling a moving story from the life of the creator of one of our most endearing literary figures.

It's 1903 London, and the playwright JM Barrie (Depp) is recovering from his latest flop when he meets the young widow Sylvia (Winslet) and her four sons--eldest George, Jack, Peter and Michael (Roud, Prospero, Highmore and Spill). Their innocent energy and sharp personalities appeal to the child within him, and as he indulges in role-play adventures with them, he develops the tale of Peter Pan. Of course, Barrie's wife (Mitchell) and Sylvia's mother (Christie), both society women, aren't terribly happy about this scandalous-looking friendship.

Even with the liberties it takes with the story, this is a compelling film that celebrates imagination and suppressed childish wonder. Forster shoots it in an unfussy but lush way that feels earthy and real, letting us forget that this is a period film, while tickling us with constant witty references to Peter Pan. He also mercifully avoids sticky sentimentality, even when the story takes a strongly emotional turn. Besides being a delightful tale well told, this is a provocative look at a strained marriage, a budding relationship between kindred spirits and the value of youthful compassion.

Depp is outstanding as always, somehow capturing the more shadowy side of Barrie's personality and yet winning us over completely. His sparky personality combines intriguingly with a face and physicality that can look simultaneously boyish and manly. Meanwhile, Mitchell and Winslet are very strong as the very different women in his life; and Christie is fantastic as the imperious woman who's had enough of this nonsense! But in the end the film belongs to Highmore, who gives a wonderful turn as the boy who's virtually the opposite of his namesake Peter Pan--he's a small child who has grown up far too quickly.

Forster and Magee also artfully mix in fantasy sequences straight from Barrie's fertile imagination, all played out on screen like scenes from a play of the period. The film is simply gorgeous to look at, and it packs an undeniable punch--strange, silly, inventive, devastating, inspiring.

cert PG themes, some language 27.Jul.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Finding Neverland Lydia Prospero, Norwood Green: 4.5/5 "This was an excellent film and very moving at the end, not for children under eleven! Johnny Depp was great as too Kate Winslet - and the boys worked great together." (31.Jan.04)

Laurie T, Minneapolis: "I am a Johnny Depp fan - more so after this movie. I loved him as Captain Jack Sparrow - look forward to the sequel to that. Was scared by him in Secret Window. He plays the part in this film well too. I think he may be my new heartthrob - but I missed his gold teeth! Kate Winslet should probably have won an Oscar. This movie is just wonderful to watch." (25.Feb.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall