Finding Neverland by Allan Knee
Nine out of 10
This motion picture is inspirational, beautifully acted, a pleasure to watch and “motivational”, a key word today.
It presents the emotional story of J. M. Barrie, his relationships with his spouse and more importantly, with the Llewelyn Davies family that would ultimately inspire the famous Peter Pan.
The extravagant Johnny Depp proves here again that he is a phenomenal, versatile actor, capable of portraying Pirates, the memorable FBI agent in Donnie Brasco, a mobster – that has been recently killed in real life, in prison- in Black Mass, supernatural figures like Edward Scissorhands and all the other imaginable characters.
As J. M. Barrie, the talented playwright, he experiences a low when producing a work that is rejected by the public and feels the pressure to follow this with a success, put on stage though his impresario, Charles Frohman aka Dustin Hoffman.
At the most opportune moment, while walking his huge dog in the park, the writer meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies as played by the legendary Kate Winslet, and her four sons and the author would become good friends with this family.
Indeed, so much so that gossip would interfere, the rumor that he spends more time with the woman who is a widow than his own wife and outrageously, the slander would assume that the playwright has a vicious, perverse reason for spending so much time with the adolescent boys.
In fact, he is one of them, an adult boy who has a strong bond with the children that benefit from his fabulous imagination, truthfulness – when disease strikes again in this unfortunate household, the adult would not indulge in the usual lying about the gravity of the affliction and limit himself to stating that he does not know what is wrong.
The Llewelyn Davies family is poor and in his generosity, J.M. Barrie thinks of helping them in all manners of ways, including by sending someone from his staff to help the household with chores, attracting the wrath of his jealous wife, who is malicious and rather loathsome in a scene where the hero explains his intentions only to have her retort that he should also give them cutlery and why not, linen, while he is at it.
Mary Ansell Barrie is to some extent justified in reproaching her husband the time he spends with another woman, more than with her, but at the same time, she would eventually be the one that does have extramarital affairs, while the man would limit himself to a platonic relationship.
Which is not without prejudice, harm to the reputation of the widow that would see all her prospects of remarrying vanish in the face of the public opprobrium that is so manifest as to have her family isolated at public events and ostracized in general.
Mrs. Emma du Maurier, a widow herself, former spouse of another writer, is portrayed by the titan of cinema, Julie Christie and is the severe, rather excessive mother of Sylvia, who comes to the rescue as she calls it, but creates all sort of problems, interfering between her daughter and the playwright.
This imposing figure rejects what she calls the charity of the man who harms the reputation of her daughter, damaging it beyond repair and eliminating all the possibilities of a future, decent, married life.
She would however be chastised by one of the boys, who makes the exceptional point that if her mother wishes to see uncle James, there is no way to prevent her and even he does not have to listen to her, for this is not the grandmother’s home, it is theirs.
Indeed, James Barrie has invited his friends to stay in a cottage he has, that his family does not use and where they try to stage some amateur plays, when Sylvia becomes ill and one of her children smashes the stage in frustration and despair at the lies they are always told and which this time would bring out the news that this is just a simple cold, when he knows it is not the truth.
The author promises to tell the truth, always, and keeps to this promise, stating that he does not know what the illness is and later on, when action is needed, he confesses that he tries to make the sick mother take care of herself, but she would not listen, giving the example of her late husband who has been taken to the hospital – as is recommended for her, for further analysis – and the result has been tragic.
For the new play that would be staged, James Barrie faces a difficult task, with hostile actors complaining about the costumes, or in the case of the one playing a dog, the impossibility of performing the acts in the script due to lack of teeth, the awkward paws with which he cannot make the beds or anything else.
The phenomenal Kelly Macdonald – seen recently in a formidable film, Puzzle, noted on here: http://realini.blogspot.com/2018/11/puzzle-by-polly-mann-nine-out-of-10.html - would play Peter Pan on stage.
This would be revealed to be James Barrie himself, as one of the Llewelyn Davies boys reveals with tremendous insight, when people say that he is Peter Pan, he explains it is actually the author.
Finding Neverland is a joy to see