Saturday, 5 January 2013

Finding Neverland (2004)

“But I’m not Peter Pan. He is.”

There are two types of films starring Johnny Depp: those which are directed by Tim Burton, and those which aren’t, and on average the former category is better. This is definitely an exception, and shows once again that Depp’s acting range is phenomenal. He’s not just a pretty face, but possibly the most talented leading man in Hollywood today. It’s either him or Robert Downey Jr.

Depp plays the childlike yet wise J.M. Barrie, true eccentric and creator of Peter Pan, with a Scottish accent that sounds flawless to this Sassenach; he has a real talent for accents. He isn’t obvious casting, but makes the role his own with his trademark attention to external mannerisms. There’s also a superb performance from Kate Winslet, and a puzzlingly small one from Dustin Hoffman.

The film chronicles the innocent relationship between Barrie and widowed single mother Sylvia Davies, and the increasingly close relationship between “Uncle Jim” and her four children. His relationship with both mother and children is entirely innocent, but a brief scene with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at a cricket match makes it clear that suspicions were held even in 1903, decades before Jimmy Savile was born. It’s unfortunate, these days, that the main character is an Uncle Jim.

The children are the inspiration for the play Peter Pan, but the film gradually darkens with the realisation that Sylvia is not well, and the children are fated to be orphaned yet again. The most interesting of the children to the theme of the film is Peter, a boy who rejects imagination and storytelling, finding it hard to disentangle them from the lies he has always been told about the seriousness of both his parents’ illnesses. It is fitting that, of all the children, he seems to be the closest to “Uncle Jim”.

The climax of the film is deeply moving. Ok, if you must, I’ll admit that I cried, dammit, in the most manly way possible. Still, at least my girlfriend didn’t point and laugh. Much.

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