Finding Neverland tells the story of how Peter Pan was made. Or sort of.
It revolves around the life of J.M. Barrie at his utmost lack of creativity when everything he creates seems dull or being blasted out by both critics and audience. His marriage does not even help to inspire him, until one day when performs his ‘ritual’, i.e. walking his dog to a park, he stumbles into a woman and her four children who are not like any other uptight families of early 20th century in London, they freely express themselves despite the ailing health of the mother. Yet, the adventure that Barrie and this family share together prove to be an oasis in the desert for Barrie, so much so that he decides to create the magical works of Peter Pan, and his own relieving presence in the family gradually ascends into being a father-like figure of those four children.
What a straight-forward narrative drama, you may think. A typical family drama that only suits for lazy Sunday watching pleasure of made-for-television movie, you may presume.
Whereas this movie may fall deeply to the stated categories above, the fact that it soars high above any other currently released film prove that to make a good-feel film, it takes putting a lot of efforts in how much you rely yourself on the story and how much you inject your own emotional thoughts and beliefs to the whole process of filmmaking. As making comparison should not be allowed in reviewing a work of creative process, I can’t help scratching my head to notice that this beautiful piece of imaginative tale told in imaginary narrative is made under the direction of one man responsible for the grim and bleak of Monster’s Ball, i.e. Marc Forster himself.
Unlike Wes Craven that once gone too far outselling his soul when he made Music of the Heart, this time Marc succeeds in dwelling himself as a man with a lot of pure hearts and innocent views on the magical world of fairy tale, so much so the extent that the whimsical theme in this film can be smoothly translated into visually breathtaking images that at times can be both real and dreamy.
You will agree with the statement above once you get to the scene when Kate Winslet’s character at her worst health-condition is taken to her small garden that transcends into a journey of her lifetime. Or just wait until the very last scene when all you can think of is the gradual process of questioning your own eyes: What was it that I just saw for the past 100 minutes or so? Is this a true story? Is this a true fairy tale?
Who knows? I don’t and I doubt you will do. How can we spare a time to think of that when you are fully transported to a dreamland like this? Where you can indulge your senses to Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s beautifully composed score that marks one of the rare cinematic moments in which music scores do enhance and heightened emotional values in watching a film. Where Johnny Depp gives an understated performance as JM Barrie that, despite being overtly praised recently, is a fine example of acting skills resulted from psychological approach that instead of merely being the character, Depp chose to be interpreting the character in the most logical sense suitable to the story. Thoughtful without necessarily falling into pretentious seriousness, seeing Depp as Barrie gives a sense of approachability value that audience can directly relate themselves to him.
Yet, in terms of acting-class performance, I would give my high credits to Kate Winslet, Freddie Highmore and Julie Christie. Reliable in making her characters she played on the screens distinctive enough to stand apart from the rest of the cast, this time Winslet is given a role of Sofia, a mother-of-four who holds up on her own, a character that may seem to be destined as an embedded supporting character, yet Winslet injects a strong dose of wits and confidence that makes Sofia a strong one and essential enough in determining the plotline, as her character slowly embodies the whole mood of the story. In the same understated kind of performance as what Depp gives to the film, so is Winslet’s turn with more subdued execution due to the nature of the character’s own destiny.
Whoever is Freddie Highmore? I can’t give you any satisfying answer as IMDB or whatever movie resource would provide you with one, yet what I can say about this boy wizard is that he does not only steal the scenes wherever he is in, but he completely hijacks them with his bravura performance as Peter, the rebellious among Winslet’s boys here, in such an applaudable turn that we would not be able to catch a glimpse of fact that he has to stand on his own along heavyweights like Depp, Winslet and of course, the evergreen beauty of Julie Christie.
Christie, who deals with her past-stardom era by making turns in numerous smaller roles, again proves us that she is way beyond the word ‘capable’ in giving a certain height and credibility to whatever roles assigned to her. As a mother of Sofia who never approves and gives a chance for Sofia to live on her own, the role of this kind may be played with nothing but merely smirk or usual highbrows, but this time, Christie imbues a certain determination that in the end, we sympathize with her character instead of dishing out hers.
Watching Finding Neverland is indeed finding our own self in the world of bewilderment and fantasy because if you believe in awaking your childhood sense, you will say: I do! I do!