Official website: http://www.miramax.com/findingneverland/
Genre: Drama
Director: Marc Forster
Starring: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman
RunTime: 1 hr 41 mins
Released By: Golden Village
Rating: PG

Released Date: 27 Feb 2005

Synopsis (Courtesy from GV):

The boundless imagination of the man behind “Peter Pan” and the poignancy of his journey combine in this emotional tale inspired by events in the life of Scottish author James Matthew Barrie. In FINDING NEVERLAND, director Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”) and an accomplished cast including Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie take a fictional look at the creation of “Peter Pan,” the classic of children’s literature that speaks directly to the child in all of us. FINDING NEVERLAND traverses both fantasy and everyday reality, melding the difficulties and heartbreak of adult life with the spellbinding allure and childlike innocence of the boy who never grows up.

It all begins as successful Scottish playwright J.M. Barrie (DEPP) watches his latest play open to a ho-hum reaction among the polite society of Edwardian England. A literary genius of his times but bored by the same old themes, Barrie is clearly in need of some serious inspiration. Unexpectedly, he finds it one day during his daily walk with his St. Bernard Porthos in London’s Kensington Gardens. There, Barrie encounters the Llewelyn Davies family: four fatherless boys and their beautiful, recently widowed mother (WINSLET).

Despite the disapproval of the boys’ steely grandmother Emma du Maurier (CHRISTIE) and the resentment of his own wife (RADHA MITCHELL), Barrie befriends the family, engaging the boys in tricks, disguises, games and sheer mischief, creating play-worlds of castles and kings, cowboys and Indians, pirates and castaways. He transforms hillsides into galleon ships, sticks into mighty swords, kites into enchanted fairies and the Llewelyn Davies boys into “The Lost Boys of Neverland.”

From the sheer thrills and adventurousness of childhood will come Barrie’s most daring and renowned masterwork, “Peter Pan.” At first, his theatrical company is skeptical. While his loyal producer Charles Frohman (HOFFMAN) worries he’ll lose his shirt on this children’s fantasy, Barrie begins rehearsals only to shock his actors with such unprecedented requests as asking them to fly across the stage, talk to fairies made out of light and don dog and crocodile costumes.

Then, just as Barrie is ready to introduce the world to “Peter Pan,” a tragic twist of fate will make the writer and those he loves most understand just what it means to really believe.

Movie Review:

Ever since “Peter Pan” was first presented to the World at the London’s Duke of York’s Theatre on December 27, 1904, the story of “The Boy Who wouldn’t Grow Up” have been avidly emulated into countless novels, literature text, movies, play and musical. Peter Pan has even become the icon of household products, including peanut butter! Celebrating its 100th anniversary in December 2004, it makes one wonder what took the filmmakers so long to tell the story of its creator, Sir James Mathew Barrie.

Adapted from award-winning playwright Allan Knee’s stage play “The Man Who Was Peter Pan”, “Finding Neverland” told the publicly-deplored relationship between Sir J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) and the Llewelyn Davis family of four fatherless boys and a modestly-ravishing widowed mother, Sylvia (Kate Winslet). The side-plots includes Barrie’s deteriorating creativity to appease the audience with another astonishing work, all thanks to the un-intriguing spouse, Mary Ansell Barrie (Radha Mitchelle).

Just when you thought the story is heading towards a conventional love story, the film instead turns its focal point on Barrie’s views of childhood that goes on to inspire him to create the beloved fairy tale of all time.

Through the story of Peter Pan, Barrie touted the innocents and joy experienced during childhood should not be left behind. Our World is fast becoming a place where children are forced to excel accordingly to what the adults wanted. This has devastated their playtime, depriving them from the wonders of childhood experiences. Though Barrie is long gone, his renowned work will always be there to remind us the importance to maintain childlike innocence to imagine, to dream and to believe even in adverse situation. Neverland, though is frictional, gives many hopes and comforts during bad times.

For the role of Sir J.M. Barrie, there could never be a more suitable contender than Johnny Depp. His performance in this film had earned him the third Best Actor Golden Globe nomination. It was said that Sir J.M Barrie had a boyish appearance and was soft-spoken hence Depp’s boyish appearance was suitable enough for him to assume the role. Unfortunately, the polite and kept mannerism of the role failed to make Depp another Best Actor winner of the Golden Globe.

Starring opposite Depp was multiple Golden Globe nominees, Kate Winslet. Weary in her looks with minimal makeup and hairdo, Kate Winslet still looks gorgeous in the movie. She is convincing enough as the widow mother, Silvia, who were drained with the daunting tasks of taking care of four boys and running the house chores alone. However, as the plot focus mainly on the creation of Peter Pan, her role became more of an ornament.

The most commendable performance however, could be from Freddie Highmore, who plays Peter Llewelyn-Davis. In spite of his young age, Highmore’s performance is simply magical! His short screen appearance does not hinder him to captivate audience with a mysterious and temperamental Peter Llewelyn-Davis. Probably this is the only character besides Johnny Depp that most would definitely enjoy watching.

With a dream-cast including Dustin Hoffman and Julie Christie, the movie however, is sluggish in its pace and had failed to entice audience unlike the magic of “Peter Pan”. Nevertheless, the imaginative and often exhilarating exploration into Barrie’s mind, and the moving concluding scene of Barrie’s conversation with Peter Llewelyn-Davis had gained more points from the critics.

Before finishing off with this review, here are some saddening "off-screen" facts to share about the Llewelyn Davis boys:

Sir J.M. Barrie later became the unofficial guardian of the five Llewelyn Davies boys, who were then aged seven to seventeen. Though under the care and attention of Barrie, their lives as grown-ups were fraught with tragedy. George was killed in the trenches during World War I; Michael, who wanted to write like Barrie, drowned at age 20 while studying at Oxford; and Peter, who inspired the name “Peter Pan”, committed suicide at the age of 63. None are alive today.

Movie Rating: B

Review by Leosen Teo

  Publicity Stills of "Finding Neverland" (Courtesy from Golden Village)

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