Growing up is all in your head and the faster you accept adulthood and let all the tragedies that come with it, the faster the magical beauty of life will end. On a personal note, I turn twenty-five today and I’ve accumulated more gray hairs than many people in their thirties. But those are just facts and figures, boring adult realities that in no way transcend to my personality. If you tell me somewhere a fairy is about to die, I might hide it under the table, but I’ll still clap.
Which brings us to Finding Neverland, starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Freddie Highmore, the Charlie from Charlie in the Chocolate Factory who is growing into more adult roles as he fits into his Astro Boy voice. Depp portrays J.M. Barrie, James here, the play write and author of the beloved Peter Pan.
After Barrie’s latest play has flopped, he meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Winslet) and her four young boys at a park. James is immediately intrigued by the boys and their games and starts to play pretend along with them. He seems like an overgrown boy himself and gets so into the games that he becomes the fuel for their imaginations and helps them become immersed into being cowboys of the Wild West or aboard a pirate ship.
Sylvia is a recent widow and welcomes James to play with the boys, seeing that his games are helping her boys be kids again. Four boys is a lot for one person to handle, so her mother lives with her and the boys. But the grandmother vocalizes her disapproval of James constantly, saying that the boys need a father figure, not a playmate.
Meanwhile, all his adventures with Sylvia and the boys has inspired James to write a new play. With James busy with his new play and spending time with the boys, he spends less and less time with his wife, causing gossip and strain on their relationship. As his wife’s patience grows thinner, Sylvia suddenly becomes very ill and the boys need him more than ever.
Of the four boys, James takes a special interest in Peter (Highmore). When they first meet, Peter is the boy most reluctant to accept pretend games, pointing out that the dancing bear is just a dog. As their relationship progresses, James gives Peter a journal to write in. Perhaps he sees potential or a young version of himself within Peter.
One of my favorite things about this film is how the imaginary world of play and reality sometimes become one. At times it’s nearly seamless, cutting from the boys among flowers in the yard to them in the dusty old west with tin stars and spurs. Their pirate adventure is just as magical and the boys get even more into the game.
One of the most important things about this movie is seeing, or maybe realizing how much tragedies really do affect children as well as adults. It’s heartbreaking to realize how the boys are affected by their father’s death. But the wonderful thing is that maybe they can cope better than adults. They can more easily escape to that imaginary place where dogs can be bears, they can have high seas adventures and still see the ones they miss. If only for a moment in their imagination. That’s not a bad thing at all.
In the end, Finding Neverland is very sweet, filled with magical, heartfelt moments and probably a few tears for you softies. I really recommend it.
“I suppose it’s all the work of the ticking crocodile isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us, isn’t that right?”