Finding Neverland

Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Radha Mitchell, Julie Christie, Freddie Highmore
Rated: PG
Runtime: 103 minutes

Finding Neverland is an in-depth visual walk through J.M. Barrie’s experience in writing his hit play “Peter Pan”. Set in London in 1904, the film follows J.M. Barrie’s creative journey to bring Peter Pan to life, from his first inspiration for the story up until the play’s premiere.

At one point in “Finding Neverland,” J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp) and his distant wife Mary (Radha Mitchell) retire to their separate bedrooms – but while she enters a dark room, the door to his room opens to reveal a fantasy landscape of blue sky and trees. This single flawless scene crystallizes everything this magical movie is about: how a creative artist channeled his personal pain through his imagination to bring forth one of literature’s most timeless classics.

J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp) is a playwright who is dealing with the fading of his stardom and the flop of his most recent play, as he is attempting to write a new screenplay, he is inspired by a sick, single mother; Silvia Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four boys; Peter, George, Jack and Michael. As he watches them at play, a kind of spiritual hunger begins to glow in his eyes. They represent an innocence and purity that strikes him so powerfully he’s unable to think of anything else. Barrie soon befriends Sylvia and the boys, especially the 12-year-old Peter (Freddie Highmore), still grieving for his father by being too serious for play and imagination.

Barrie is instantly drawn to the impressionable children, and performs an impromptu play for the abiding family. An instant bond is formed, and Barrie and the Davies family quickly become inseparable. The Davie’s children instantly become his muse in writing his new script, which he names after Peter, the second youngest and most emotionally grieved from the loss of their father. Their friendship causes problems with his wife and the snooty society types, but Barrie’s whimsical playdates with the boys lay the groundwork for the successful stage production about a boy who refuses to grow up. It becomes increasingly clear through the interaction between the five, that Sylvia is Barrie’s true soul mate and muse, so it’s especially wrenching when her uncontrollable coughs signal fresh tragedy for him and the Davies boys.

Perhaps what hit me most is how when Barrie was with the boys, he was able to take them out of the world, and the pain that they lived in, and experience a world that was beyond their wildest imaginations. It saddened me that as he played with these children, their mother sat, silently falling for the man that possibly was the one thing that kept her alive for as long as she had. Possibly the most tear wrenching climactic part of the film was within the last ten minutes, right after the premiere of the play, when a more intimate version is staged for the dying Sylvia and her boys, within the security of their own living room.

At its heart, this movie is about believing and finding happiness and that just because someone has left you, they are not really lost forever, but they are always with you. That we all have a piece of Neverland inside of us, and all we have to do is to believe that it is there, and we can go anytime.