Film & DVD Review: Finding Neverland

Director: Mark Foster
Starring, Johny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Ian Hart and Kelly McDonald
Run time: 1 Hour 32 minutes

Reviewed by Betty Wood

“It’s magical – thank you” are words spoken by Peter Llewellyn Davies towards the end of this film after the opening night of the play Peter Pan. That’s exactly what the film is – magical – from start to finish. Magical and perfect. The costumes are perfect, the settings are perfect, the actors are perfect – in fact there is not one false note in this entire production.

Based on real life events this film recounts a period of time in the life of J. M. Barrie, a Scottish playwright perhaps best known for the story Peter Pan.

It’s the opening night of one of Barrie’s plays in London in 1903 when the film opens and we see Depp as Barrie trying to avoid his audience and his wife, Mary (Kelly McDonald) as he knows in advance the play will not be a success.

Depp is excellent as J. M. Barrie – his Scottish accent sounds authentic and conveys delightfully Barrie’s childlike sense of the world and his delight in games and flights of imagination. By coincidence prior to watching this film I saw a TV programme which visited Barrie’s birthplace of Kirriemuir and his childhood family home. Depp’s performance meshed with the image of Barrie portrayed by home and surroundings.

The film goes on, following the failure of this play, to show Barrie and his Newfoundland dog getting to know the Llewellyn Davies family after a chance meeting with them in the park.

This is a family of four boys and their widowed mother, Sylvia Llewellyn Davies. Their father has recently died and has the family with little financial support.

As his relationship with the four boys, George, Michael, Peter and Jack grows through play and imagination and lots of time spent with them, so too does his relationship with their mother, Sylvia also grow and deepen. For me, Depp and Kate Winslet (Sylvia) were a perfect pairing; well matched in every nuance – one could almost feel a current of air between them.

Eventually Barrie writes Peter Pan using the Llewellyn Davies boys as the spark for his own fertile imagination but as the play nears fruition his own marriage finally falls apart and it becomes obvious that Sylvia is very ill.

At the end, the play Peter Pan is a resounding success; Barrie’s wife finally leaves him and Sylvia finally dies – but only after a version of Peter Pan has been staged for her alone.

J. M. Barrie and Mrs Du Maurier (Julie Christie), the children’s Grandmother, then asume joint responsibility for the boys.

To end this review, I must mention that even minor roles are played to perfection by everyone form Dustin Hoffman (as Barrie’s financial backer) to the children playing the orphans given free seats to the opening night of Peter Pan.


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