Sweetness that doesn’t turn saccharine is hard to find these days; Finding Neverland hits the mark. Much credit is due to the actors: Johnny Depp applies his genius for sly whimsy in his portrayal of playwright J. M. Barrie, who finds inspiration for his greatest creation from four lively boys, the sons of widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet, who miraculously fuses romantic yearning with common sense).
Though the friendship threatens his already dwindling marriage, Barrie spends endless hours with the boys, pretending to be pirates or Indians–and gradually the elements of Peter Pan take shape in his mind.
The relationship between Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies family sparks both an imagined world and a quiet rebellion against the stuffy forces of respectability, given physical form by Barrie’s resentful wife (Radha Mitchell) and Sylvia’s mother (Julie Christie).
This gentle silliness could have turned to treacle, but Depp and Winslet–along with newcomer Freddie Highmore as one of the boys–keep their feet on the earth while their eyes gaze into their dreams. Also featuring a comically crusty turn from Dustin Hoffman as a long-suffering theater producer.
Finding Neverland is a wonderful family film. There is truly a sense of wonder about J.M. Barrie and his imagination which created Neverland. His friendship with the Davies comes off as genuine and heartfelt and entirely natural.
Depp is much more restrained here than in most of his other movies, but he still is able to shine through with a quirky personality that feels appropriate to Barrie. Finding Neverland is a very imaginative movie, beautifully shot, with enough scenes of Barrie’s imagination.
Director: Marc Foster
Year of Release: 2004
Character to watch: Johnny Depp as Sir James Matthew Barrie.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?