Peter Pan, is of course, the immensely popular story of a boy who wouldn’t grow up. The Internet Movie Data Base lists 8 movies with that title, and there are many more films that have been made using the same story. It actually began as an immensely popular play on the London stage. Finding Neverland is the film based on the plays author, JM Barrie and his relationship with the Davies family and how they inspired Barrie to write the play.
We begin the film finding Barrie (Johnny Depp) having just completed the staging of a very expensive, new play, which also turns out to be a bomb. His marriage is falling apart because while Barrie is himself a childlike man, his wife seems to be very much the adult who cannot participate in her husband’s whims and dreams. Enter Sylvia Davies (Kate Winslet), a widow trying to support four children with very little money. Barrie immediately falls in love with her children. He takes them to the park, plays cowboys and Indians, dances with bears, and indulges every childlike fantasy they can dream up. He is every bit the child they are. They in turn are the muses for his next play. Throughout the film, we see the children acting out bits, we know of from Peter Pan. We see his inspiration on celluloid.
This is a good, well made film. It is aptly directed, and the actors all do fine jobs. My English friend notes that Depp does a decent job with a Scottish accent, and as always, the remainder of his performance is top notch.
My problem with the film lies within the characterization of Barrie, himself. He is made out to be a wonderful, beautiful dreamer. A man who has the heart of a child. He is someone who lives in his imagination. We see the world through his eyes. While dancing in the park with his dog, we see it transform into a circus and the dog into a bear. Anyone who dares to question his fancies, to expect him to act as an adult, is shown in a unfavorable light. Both Barries’ wife, Mary (Rahda Mitchell) and Davies’ mother, Emma Du Maurier (Julie Christie) do not care for Barrie’s behavior and both are made out to be villains. Yet his behavior is to be frowned upon. A married man gallivanting about town with a widow and her children is neither acceptable nor Right.