What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this really isn't a kids' movie. It's about J.M. Barrie and his relationship with four boys who have lost their father before the movie begins and who lose their mother before it ends. Barrie's marriage breaks up because (among other things) his wife has a new boyfriend. It will probably disappoint younger kids who come expecting something Peter Pan-like. If you do go with your kids, you might talk about sources of imagination and creativity.
What's the story?
The story of the man who wrote about the boy who would not grow up has inspired this movie, loosely based on Peter Pan author James M. Barrie's relationship with the Davies boys and their mother. Playwright Barrie (Johnny Depp) has staged a recent flop, his producer (Dustin Hoffman) is getting impatient, and his wife (Radha Mitchell) finds him frustratingly distant. Then, Barrie meets the Davies children. Captured by their boyish imagination and touched by their loss, he begins to tell them stories and is eventually inspired to write a play about a boy who stays young forever. His relationship with the boys causes trouble with their grandmother (Julie Christie), who worries it will ruin her daughter(Winslet)'s chances for re-marriage. It further strains his marriage. Outsiders wonder if there is something improper going on. But all Barrie wants is to play pirates and Indians. The boys help him find enchantment -- they show him Neverland, and he shows it to the world.
Is it any good?
The movie has some lovely images. Barrie and his wife open their separate bedroom doors. Behind hers is a bed. Behind his is...Neverland. And as in the timeless play itself, the pleasures of endless childhood in a world in which we lose a little more youth every day are movingly portrayed.
Depp, Winslet, and Christie give touching performances, but the question for a movie like this is whether it is as illuminating or entertaining as the work we see created. In this case, the answer is no. The fantasy sequences have more power and the glimpses of the play itself are more appealing than the framing story. You keep wanting to tell them to get out of the way so that you, too, can get back to Neverland.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about why Barrie wanted to play with the boys and why he was sorry to see them grow up. What is the best part of being a child? What is the best part of being a grown-up? Also, for aspiring young writers, what adventures in your own life can lead to your next great story?