This story is based on James Barrie, the playwright best known for Peter Pan and it is one of the best films that I’ve seen this year, despite receiving next to no hype or marketing push.
James Barrie (Johnny Depp) is a playwright, successful enough to have a nice house with servants, and a beautiful wife (Radha Mitchell). Still, his marriage seems distant and he is bothered by the mediocrity of his creative output. On opening night, people complement him on his terrible plays and he knows they are just trying to be nice.
One day while sitting on a park bench, he encounters three adolescent boys, who he quickly befriends. He invites them over for dinner and also solidifies a friendship with their mother, played by Kate Winslet, much to the disappointment of his wife and her mother, the stern, protective Julie Christie. The boy’s father died from cancer and to some extent, his becomes their playmate, without trying to replace their dad. At the same time, his wife becomes increasingly disenchanted that her husband is spending so much time with another woman and her children.
As his friendship grows with the boys and her mother, he begins to develop a play, loosely based about them. While initially met with skepticism in the planning stages, the play ends up becoming Barrie’s most famous creation.
While less visually fantastic than last year’s Big Fish by Tim Burton, Finding Neverland has its own tastefully limited special effects, but it outshines Burton’s film in its amount of sheer heart.
I actually ended up seeing this film since I arrived too late for the film I originally wanted to see. At the end of Finding Neverland, I was not even slightly surprised to see the audience burst into applause. It was also nice to see that the film was sold out.
The acting is well done without being spectacular. I enjoyed Johnny Depp’s performance, but he didn’t play the role with an extraordinary amount of charisma. Some people will see this as a failing, but I think a genuine performance is better than glitzy but shallow one. One of the children is particularly strong, playing the role of Peter. He’s the youngest but at the same time he’s complex, cynical and surprisingly mature.
Sometimes, a film will come along that stirs up emotions that need to be awakened, and makes you feel alive. Finding Neverland was such a film for me.