33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2006
Finding Neverland is one of those rare films that succeed in everything they attempt. It tells the story of JM Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan, who was in equal measures brilliant and exceptionally difficult to live with. He had unusual writing habits and a powerful imagination, which often caused a blur between fantasy and reality in his life. This blend of the real and the imaginary is a successful staple for the film, much of which jumps back and forth between the two, a delightful product of the talents of Marc Forster, the director.
Played with grace and aplomb by the inestimable Johnny Depp - who presently seems to have the Midas Touch - Barrie is at a downturn in his writing career at the start of the film. He has just written a play that has been panned by the critics, so he seeks inspiration for a new project. He meets by chance the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four young sons, instantly forming the friendship that becomes the muse for his masterpiece. However, while Barrie is off playing `the-boy-who-never-grew-up' with his new friends, his marriage to upwardly-mobile Mary (Radha Mitchell) declines badly. The performances given by Depp and Mitchell of the fragile couple are exquisite, but also bring the feeling that the marriage has been cold for a long time, and that they would have struggled, Peter Pan or no.
While Barrie's intentions for the Davies family are only good, his involvement causes a stir amongst society, and it is here that the film is extremely strong. Marc Forster directs with subtlety and sympathy and the superb writing of the film means there is no need for awkward or crass scenes with fights or large scale fall-out - any emotional traumas or triumphs for the characters, while implicit, are exceptionally performed leaving the audience without confusion.
A single scene - where a close friend tactfully informs Barrie that people are `talking' about his involvement with the boys - is necessary for bold statement of the darker side of the film, and is also a useful plot device for the playwright to realise his entanglement is perhaps more self-serving than he had thought, and potentially even destructive for the young family.
The performance of the entire cast is one of the resounding victories of this film, Depp is once again on devastating form and Kate Winslet is splendid as the toiling mother. Supporting roles are supplied by the wonderful Julie Christie and Dustin Hoffman who plays the theatre producer and financier. For all the star-power of these figures, however, it is the four actors who play Winslet's sons who are the stellar performers, the young Peter (Freddie Highmore) especially. With child-actors of this calibre about, the future of the British film industry is in safe hands.
Finding Neverland ends with a touching denouement, in which all trials and tragedies of the characters are vindicated, and a young family coping with loss gain a little magic and a lot of love in an unexpected way. While Peter Pan's story may be told repeatedly, the process and struggles of his conception by Barrie have been done more than adequate justice by this film. It is a visual feast that will interest adults and children alike, and may be the best alternative to other failing versions of Peter Pan as it tells the story of the original boy who never grew up.
65 of 66 people found the following review helpful
on 8 March 2005
"Finding Neverland" is a deeply moving, poetic film, based on the life of Scottish playwright and novelist James Matthew Barrie, and adapted from Allan Knee's play "The Man Who Was Peter Pan." It is a fictional account of how Barrie came to write "Peter Pan," which has long been a beloved children's classic symbolizing everlasting youth.
Johnny Depp gives an unusually understated, sensitive performance as J. M. Barrie, who is facing a crisis in life. His latest play is not receiving accolades, and his marriage has grown cold and sterile. He meets Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, (Kate Winslet), a widowed mother of four sons, and immediately hits it off with her boys - played by Joe Prospero, Nicholas Roud, Luke Spill, and the extremely gifted Freddie Highmore as Peter. Although he is friendly with Sylvia, it is with the children that he is able to take-off on glorious flights of imagination. And the five of them soar. Their back-yard games transform into fantasy imagery. They're flying!! The results are remarkable scenes played out as adventures, veritable fetes of daring. He and the boys act as pirates sailing the Spanish Main, cowboys and "red Indians" riding the plains of the old West.
In reality, however, this is Edwardian England, not the Wild West, and Barrie's friend Arthur Conan Doyle, (Ian Hart), warns him of vicious gossip about his "unseemly" interest in the family. Barrie responds with disgust. As he becomes increasingly involved with the boys, tension escalates between him and his upper-class wife, Mary, (Radha Mitchell). Sylvia's mother, Emma (Julie Christie), also lifts a questioning brow, wondering why on earth a grown man would spend so much time with children, and someone else's to boot!
Barrie's deep feelings for Sylvia and her boys are genuine. A decent man, he never had kids of his own, nor did he have much of a childhood. Complex and creative, emotionally immature with a brilliant mind, he carves out a realm for himself with the Davies family, his own Neverland of sorts. He lavishes them with affection, gifts, and tons of energy as he enacts, with them all, his inspired games. His poignant longing for the childhood he missed is evident. For me, Barrie epitomizes the "lost boy." The children, in turn, love him back and gift him with the inspiration for his haunting tale of Peter Pan, the youth who refuses to grow up. In David Magee's screenplay, Sylvia is the female figure in Barrie's fantasies - like a Wendy - more maternal than wifely.
Sorrow and loss lie just over the horizon from this world of fantasy and delight, but I will keep them at bay here. Let it suffice to say that some dark themes are explored. Director Marc Forster has delivered a fine period piece, with amazing sets and costume design. The acting is superb. Johnny Depp imbues the film with a sense of wonder. Ultimately, "Finding Neverland" is about holding on to the all the magical aspects of childhood and keeping the imagination alive. This movie touched me deeply. PS - bring some extra tissues along.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2005
What an enchanting film! I felt like a child again when I saw this film and with all the hope and joy of what life has to offer. Johnny Depp was superb as J.M. Barrie the writer and creator of Peter Pan and Kate Winslet and Freddie Highmore were good as the mother and son he befriends who inspire him to write his greatest creation Peter Pan. The imagery was vivid and stunning and the depiction of J.M. Barrie's relationship with his 'adopted sons,' was touching and moving. Sometimes all we need to do in life at times is let our hearts feel young and never grow old and cynical just like Peter Pan. This is a good film which young and old alike will enjoy!
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2005
I bought this movie, knowing very little about it. I knew it was about J M Barrie and I knew it had Depp and Winslet. Depp and Winslet seemed enough reason to buy it alone, along with all the hype. I was blown away!
After it arrived, I wasn't so sure if I should have bought such an impulse, but after ten minutes I was lost to the world!
I don't think it matters at all if you were a Peter Pan fan, I certainly wasn't. This movie spoke to me as it would to everyone, it's about escapism, about Neverland. It's about one man's struggle to be inspired, and he finds it, and this in itself, to me, is inspirational and is what made the movie beautiful.
The whole movie is a masterpiece, don't let anyone tell you any different. If they didn't like it, they had their reasons. I should imagine it's not to everyone's tastes. This is one you have to judge for yourself.
Enjoy and be astounded.
With regards to the DVD, the special features are actually quite good and it's worth the however much extra for them (if you're a fan of the movie).
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2005
It's not very often I write a review on here... to be honest, I only read the reviews to see who didn't give it 5 out of 5 stars and why??
This is one of those rare movies in which everything comes together. It's a work of genius. As I sit here and listen to the soundtrack (also amazing) - I can re-live the entire experience of watching this movie and one man's mind and interpretation of the world. Johnny Depp is outstanding, and even the supporting role of Kate Winslet (who I wouldn't normally endorse) adds an excellent etiquette and mature approach to the whole performance.
There aren't many Hollywood special effects in this movie which is surprisingly refreshing - most of it is just the vision of one man, and how he would perceive the world to be written on stage as a play.
The camera work and music are also fantastic, and the children in the end are from the "real" Peter Pan orphanage adding a touch of realism to this (unjustly description) film. You really have to see it to believe it!
If you don't want to buy this movie... at least watch it somewhere... you will not be disappointed!
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 5 April 2005
A couple of times in my lifetime I have come across a movie that seemed filmed especially for me. As most of you can imagine, I experience great joy when this happens, and "Finding Neverland" spoke to me in a very special way and therefore, generated this very special feeling. People say that everyone has a child inside that is eager to come out, and that adults are constantly fighting this desire keeping it in check. Even though I am thirty years old, I feel this way at least a couple of times a day, so watching Depp in the role of James Barrie was touching and marvelous.
The movie tells the story of how Mr. Barrie created the magnificent play "Peter Pan", and we get to see the events that inspired him and allowed him to free his inner child. The setting is London 1903, where we find Barrie presenting his last play, which is plain and unsatisfying. He is eager to do better, but does not have a muse, which in part is the result of the attitude of his wife Sarah. She is distant, formal, and is interested in posing as an upper class family and showing a proper behavior, more than in sharing moments with her husband.
James usually goes to the park to write while allowing his dog, a beautiful Newfoundland, to wander around. This is how he meets his muses, Sylvia (Kate Winslet) and her four boys, Michael, George, Jack, and...Peter. From that point forward he starts to get involved in playing with the kids and in sharing their fantasies, without caring about what others think of this. Sylvia is a widow, and the boys have suffered greatly by the loss of their father, especially Peter. But through perseverance and kindness, James starts building a beautiful relationship with them and having an effect on their lives.
There are so many messages in this movie that it would be impossible to enumerate them. This is one of the reasons why I think that this is a film that can be watched over and over again without losing its appeal. But besides the great script, there is also the high-level performances of Depp and Winslet, who fit their roles to perfection and provide their characters with a realism seldom seen. The kids are also great in their performances, especially Freddie Highmore playing Peter, since he presents the emotions of the character with great conviction. To top it off, the music is absolutely delightful. I guess that by this point, you have a pretty good idea: this is a movie that you cannot afford to miss!
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 9 June 2005
If you saw "Peter Pan" as a kid or enjoyed "Hook" as a teenager you will like this film. It is a fictionalised account of how J M Barrie came to write the original story after he had met and befriended a fatherless family of boys and their mother.
I was worried that the film might go down the "Barrie was a closet paedophile" route, but my fears were unfounded. The whole atmosphere is magical and the children's performances are generally good. Johnny Depp makes a good stab at an Irish accent, and while he may not resemble Barrie he obviously enjoyed the make-believe scenes as much as the boys did.
While not always historically accurate, this is a sympathetic film which increases our understanding of a very famous story.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2006
This film is soooo moving! Johnny depp plays the great (J.M Barrie) Who meets a familly of a mother (Kate Winslet) and 4 children which he falls in love with. One of the children, Peter (who is also Charlie in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, & in Two Brothers) has the worst imagination... imaginable. This great film follows through 'Barries' life with this wonderful family.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 19 September 2005
I wasn't sure what to expect of this film - I knew it had had rave reviews but wasn't sure of the content. I have to say that I wasn't expecting to be as deeply moved as I was. Johnny Depp, as ever, is faultless and plays such a different role to his Captain Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean that it's a masterclass in acting. Kate Winslet compliments him perfectly though perhaps top honours should go to the little lad playing Peter (Freddie Highmore). What is most to the film's credit is that it manages to confront adult themes of loss and mortality with childhood innocence and playfulness. It must have been so difficult in these cynical times to leave no hint that J.M. Barrie had anything but completely innocent love of these children (consider Michael Jackson's trial) and yet you do absolutely and fully believe that there was nothing untoward going on here and that it's you with the problem if you think otherwise. The result is an endearing study of the warmth of humanity of J.M., his grasp on the harsh realities of life but his denial that that is all there is. Finding Neverland takes us to a place in ourselves that we vaguely remember from lost childhoods, and whilst never slipping into overwrought sentimentality, makes us all a little bit stronger knowing that place is there.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2005
It is an extremely rare experience for me to have witnessed art in a film, but this is truly what I found here. This film is incredibly adept at managing to convey the amazing power of imagination. This, coupled with the sensitivity and emotion of the characters, is what makes this film unmissable. Winslet and Depp excel in their lead roles, and the children were perfectly cast in a film where there is simply no weak link.
A warm and extremely moving film that can be appreciated by both young and old.