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Finding Neverland

February 12, 2005
Are you fed up of the sleaze and trash which is forced up on us from Bollywood in the name of entertainment? Are you fed up with the skin shows, the sheesha’s, the chahats, the whatsoever names?

Are you feeling disgusted with 3rd rate heroes and heroines trying to strip their way to success? Do you feel life sucks when you see star sons and daughters hog all media headlines, without even an iota of achievement to their credit?

Well to all such folks I suggest a wonderful movie that’s recently released. A movie so charming, delightful and heart warming that it’s sure to drive your blues away. And considering the type of movies that are released, the best movie to take your girlfriend, lover or spouse on Valentine?s Day( unless your are very bold enough to risk Sheesha or Chahat). Even if you are single, and don?t believe in Valentine?s Day stuff, do watch this movie, just for the wonderful message it offers.

Finding Neverland is a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s era of Hollywood, where emphasis was on the story and characters, not on style and special effects. Finding Neverland is a movie that appeals to the kid in all of us, it’s a throwback to the age of innocence, and appeals because of it’s timelessness. This is not a movie about disasters about to hit the earth, aliens, ghosts, demons, which Hollywood seems to revel in. It’s a story of one of the greatest characteristics of the human race, of standing up even after falling down.

The Story

Finding Neverland is the story of James M Barrie(Johnny Depp) a playwright who is also the man behind one of the greatest and most popular children stories of all time, Peter Pan . I am sure as kids most of us would have some time or other read about or at least heard the story of the boy who never grew up, the evil Captain Hook, the beautiful fairy Tinkerbelle.

The movie starts with J.M.Barrie’s play which is a critical and commercial disaster but his producer Charles Frohman(Dustin Hoffman) is still confident of him and still backs him up. His wife Mary( Radha Mitchell) feels neglected and lonely.

So on a fine day morning, in a walk to the park, Barrie comes in to touch with 4 wonderful boys Peter, George, Jack and Michael who are the sons of a widow Sylvia Llewyn Davies( Kate Winslet). The boys love him and see him as their favorite uncle, a sort of father figure whom they have always missed. Barrie in turn feels a lot of empathy with the kids and their mother, and starts to spend more time with the Davies family.

While his wife, initially welcomes it, as Sylvia’s snooty mother Mrs.Du Marrier( Julie Christie) is one of the top most socialites of that time, and she looks at this as an opportunity to develop her social standing. However Mrs.Du Marrier never takes kindly to Barrie’s pranks with the kids, and she never conceals her distaste for Barrie. On the other hand Mary also resents the growing bond between Barrie and the Davies family, and she suspects more between Barrie and Sylvia.

And the hypocritical society of that period, also starts to spread ugly rumors about the relationship between Sylvia and Barrie. Barrie however is least bothered, and starts to unleash his creative energy from the games he plays with kids, and the kids in turn learn from him also. This leads to the creation of his classic Peter Pan. But just as he is about to savor his success, fate strikes a cruel blow in the form of Sylvia’s ill health.The rest of the movie is about how Barrie’s achieves his dream, what happens to Sylvia finally leading to a bitter sweet ending.

The Movie

Marc Foster who had earlier directed another Oscar nominee, Monster’s Ball, which was a pretty dark movie, does a complete about turn in this movie which is absolutely light and refreshing. Even the tragic undertones in this movie dont dampen the feel good spirit of this movie. But at the same time in his attempt to make the movie sweet and endearing, Foster doesnt dumb down the movie and treats the movie in a very intelligent manner.

There are movies which appeal to the heart, there are which appeal to the brain, but very rarely do you come across a movie which appeals to both the heart and brain. There are many outstanding sequences in this movie, some of which are

· The scenes between Barrie and the boys are handled wonderfully and are so warm and natural.
· The scene where Sylvia breaks down for the first time giving a hint of the tragedy.
· The intercutting of the fantasy scenes with the real scenes.
· The scene where Sylvia’s snooty mother comes home to Barrie for dinner and makes disparaging remarks.
· The scenes involving the shooting of the play.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie would be the one during the Peter Pan play where Barrie fills up 25 empty seats, with orphans, and their spontaneous laughter and giggling, make even the otherwise stiff upper lip members open up and enjoy the play whole heartedly.

Findind Neverland is an appeal to the child in all of us, to enjoy things with heart, instead of being cynical and cold about everything. The movie is also a comment about the hypocritical social mores in early 20th century England. For instance there is a scene when Slyvia’s mother tells Barrie to stop visiting her daughter, as she feels that would affect her matrimonial prospects.

Another scene set in a cricket field, where Barrie’s friend tells him that others dont interact much with the Davies family because of his constant interaction with them. And we do see shots of members on the field, looking down disapprovingly on Sylvia and her kids. Reminds us a lot about our social mores here I guess. Many critics have complained that many unsavory aspects of Barrie’s life have been left out. I guess that’s something of academic interest, better suited for a History Channel documentary rather than a movie.

The Performances

Johnny Depp is as usual brilliant in the role of James Barrie. He is one of my favorite actors and he brings a wonderful amount of sensitivity and depth to his role, never hamming or going over the top. I wish he gets an Oscar this time, but with Jamie Foxx for Ray and Leornado Di Caprio for Aviator, competition is quite tough.

Kate Winslet again one of my favorites is brilliant as usual. As a widowed mother fighting against social mores, as a lady who knows her life is short lived, she excels as usual with another superb performance.

Dustin Hoffman as usual turns in again another superb performance as the theater manager, who is Barrie’s mentor and guide.

The actors who played the roles of the 4 kids are pretty good, but special mention should go to Freddie Highmore who plays the role of Peter the eldest of the kids. Peter is a person who has wise beyond his age, and he finds it difficult to come to terms with the loss of his father. And he is the one who is closest to Barrie and who provides the inspiration for Peter Pan.

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