A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Finding Neverland

May 19, 2011

Finding Neverland

I love a movie about the power of imagination. Which is very much what this movie is. In the spirit of Shakespeare in Love this is a fictionalization of the creation of a well known popular work. In this case it is a slightly more modern tale from the turn of the 19th century with the subject being the writing of Peter Pan.

Who better to play the author of Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, than that eternal man-child himself Johnny Depp? It seems to be the role he was born to play. Barrie is portrayed as a man who takes great delight in childhood games and wild adventures of the imagination. When his latest play is a colossal flop and critical failure he finds solace in the companionship of a group of young brothers who have not lost the ability to dream. He spends more and more time with the Llewelyn Davies boys and their mother and finds in playing with them the inspiration for his next play – a mad fantasy about a boy who doesn’t ever want to grow up.

Much of the charm in this movie comes from the deft direction of Marc Forster. He wonderfully blends the world of imagination and play with the real world and shows us how these fantasies have a reality of their own. I would say that it has a very Gilliamesque feel to it, and that’s high praise coming from me. For the most part the magic in the film comes from simple tricks like inter-cutting between two viewpoints of the same dialog, or flying out parts of the set to show us the land of fantasy behind and around the mundane world. At one point in the fantasy world there are some gorgeous waves done in a sort of cut-out style which I assume to be the only CGI effects in the film. There are also a couple wonderfully creative camera tricks (like the kite POV shot) and one particular sweeping, soaring, absolutely impossible camera move that flies around the theater during the opening night of the play Peter Pan which completely blew my mind.

I was also mightily impressed by the very, very young Freddie Highmore who here plays the second youngest of the brothers, the practical Peter. It’s a great character – acting as a sort of foil to Barrie’s man who wants to play like a boy there’s Peter as the boy who doesn’t want to believe in childish things. It’s a demanding role, and many of the movie’s most emotional moments hinge on him, and Freddie is more than able to give it the power it deserves.

I do not, as a rule, spend time with children. Maybe it’s that I have too many bad memories of how awkward and painful it was to be one. Maybe it’s that I don’t like being cast in the role of an adult. As such it is difficult for me to sympathise with a character who chooses to spend most of his time playing with this brood. On the other hand, I do have wonderful memories of playing with my friend Randy in Narnia and Middle Earth and Xanth (all of which were somehow encompassed by a small stretch of fence and a rope swing in his back yard.) So I know what it is to see entire other worlds in this one.

I knew going into it that this movie would make me cry, and I was right. But it’s okay because there’s a hopefulness to the film. There’s a (very heavily beaten home) message to the movie about the wonder of dreams and the power they have to bring us hope in times of trouble. No matter how blatant the point may be I still find it to be a valid one. Me, I always wanted to escape to the 100 Acre Wood as a child and not to Neverland, but the gist is the same. This world we live in is only one aspect of our lives, and the worlds we imagine and play in are no less valid. I firmly believe that.

Now back to my video games.

May 19, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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