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  • Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Zettel at 01:29 on 05 November 2004
    Finding Neverland

    The Peter Pan story can either rot the brain or lift the spirit. Decades of commercial exploitation have virtually sucked it dry of any true feeling. Yet it seems to touch something so deep in us that it is indestructible. It must be to have survived the aesthetically treacly assault of Spielberg and Robin Williams in Hook (1991). In contrast, the poignant and deeply sad, Finding Neverland gently reaches into the story to expose its heart and lift our spirits with something of what it is that makes the tale of the boy who never grew up eternally resonant.

    Cleverly, Director Marc Foster and screenwriter David Magee, release the spirit of Peter Pan indirectly through an imaginative take on the real relationships between James Barrie and the Llewellyn Davies family who were the models for the Darling family of the play. Using real events as a base and drawing on the play by Alan Knee, Foster has created a very moving film, longer on aesthetic than historical truth; but none the worse for that. The licence taken with the actual facts serves a valid aesthetic purpose in adding potency to the complex emotions and relationships from which Barrie's imagination spun his magical tale.

    Finding Neverland is a quiet, impressive movie served by superb performances: Depp, always a mesmeric presence on camera makes Barrie absorbing and engaging with a finely judged performance free of his occasional flamboyance which would have been out of place here; Kate Winslett's natural, spiky, feisty screen persona works well to make sense of Barrie's ambiguous emotions towards her. Dustin Hoffman in an effective, understated performance, does overdue penance for his hammy 'Hook' of yesteryear. Radha Mitchell plays the thankless role of Barrie's wife Mary, with a beautiful sad stillness that makes her surprisingly sympathetic, with a kind of loving wistfulness that Barrie invites another woman, not her, into the precious world of his imagination.

    These are performances of great skill, allowed to breathe and engage us through subtle unobtrusive editing and a beautifully restrained score by Jan Kaczmarek ('Peter's Song' by Elton John). But the key to the film's powerful evocation of the essence of the Peter, is Freddie Highmore, simply overwhelming in the role of Peter Llewellyn Davies: Barrie's inner Peter Pan self externalised in the flesh. This extraordinary 'performance' displays such an acute sense of absolute vulnerability one simply and unashamedly, weeps. As seen in the film, it would be crass and trivialising to reduce and distort a profoundly complex relationship to repressed sexuality.

    Finding Neverland touches us deeply with a portrayal of real emotions and relationships, at times heartrending but not manipulative. Through the grief and sadness these young lives have to face we are flown through the open window of Barrie's imagination to a way of escaping, for a while at least, into a magical world where to be safe and happy and free of pain, all we have to do is believe we can will it so. To grow up is to lose one's youthful sense of immortality to the brutal reality of the inevitability death. Romantic and sentimental this vision may be but for 100 years it has put a momentary smile on the face of sadness for people of all ages and looks destined to do so for a very long time to come.

    Zettel - November 2004
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  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Al T at 08:41 on 05 November 2004
    Hi Z, I enjoyed your both your review and the film very much. I would certainly advise taking along a large hankie, though. I can't remember the last time I saw so many people cry at a film. Even the noisy, thumping Sloane heffalump woman next to me, who kept invading my personal space (grrr!) and fidgeting, was weeping by the end (and not because of my elbow in her ribs, though I was tempted).

    I thought Depp was terrific, and although I was ready to pick holes in his Scottish accent, actually found it quite convincing. He think he evoked a sense of fascination and enchantment with youth really well, without being creepy and pervy, which was a risk. Kate Winslet, too, just keeps getting better - she used to irritate me but now I think she has a real emotional depth that so many actors lack. But the star for me was the little boy who played Peter. He wasn't pretty enough to be a saccharine cutie, and I loved the signs of a possibly fustian adulthood to come in touches like him saying, when Depp/Barrie pretends his dog is a bear, "but that's just absurd."

    Also, for any writer, a reminder that our job is to let out imagination have free rein is always valuable.

    Go see this movie.



    On reflection, the last time I saw so much weeping in the cinema was probably at Shadowlands, the story of CS Lewis's doomed love affair - what is it about these children's authors?
  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Zettel at 00:12 on 06 November 2004
    Welcome back and welcome comments Ad.

    Interesting phenomenon in weepie movies: the women get out hankies, the guys (including me) suddenly get a really terrible bit of grit in their eye. You're so right about Freddie Highworth.


  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by WARD83 at 10:36 on 07 November 2004

    Brilliant stuff, again ("rot the brain or lift the spirit" can accurately describe many things - great line!).

    Many newspaper reviews made the film sound mawkish and sickly. But this does it justice.

    Thanks for posting this.

  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Zettel at 12:16 on 07 November 2004
    Thanks Ward.

    The line between sentiment and sentimentality is so fine. Foster's achievement I think is to skirt the edges without falling over. Some of the final lines would be unplayable were it not for the quiet restraint of what went before.


  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Buddy at 20:51 on 07 November 2004

    I'm going to the cinema in Leeds tomorrow. I had no intention of watching this until I read your review. Excellently written. So true about commercial exploitation sucking Peter Pan dry (of course, this can also be attributed to anything Disney touches)!

    There's nothing better than a genuinely feel-good film.

  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Zettel at 01:48 on 08 November 2004

    Bit worried now. Hope you like it. For me FN is more good feeling than feel good.
    But then philsophers always split hairs.

    If you like it let me know. If you don't, sorry I haven't got enough loot to refund admission.


  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Buddy at 16:37 on 08 November 2004

    Enjoyed it very much, certainly the best film I've seen at the cinema since American Beauty.

    I need at-least a few days before I can properly access a film, but suffice to say I agree with the review entirely. It's a great that a fairly cynical, bitter adult like me can still be moved!


  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Account Closed at 16:54 on 08 November 2004
    I'm sorry. I'm sure you've written a professional and thorough review of this film, but I stopped reading when you seemed to imply that the finest movie of all time, Hook, was less than perfect.
  • Re: Finding Neverland - Director Marc Foster
    by Zettel at 00:09 on 09 November 2004
    Buddy - phew that's a relief. I'll keep my little money in my pocket.

    IBT - now I understand how appropriate the 'I' is!! Just teasing: The only important thing is that people love movies: if they do they should fight for their loves. That's cool. We share nore from active dissent than we do from passive agreement. Sorry you didn't finish the review, the comment about Hook was really an indulgent side-swipe irrelevant to the merits or otherwise of FN. At least don't let me put you off a fine film.