Director Marc Foster’s “Finding Neverland” (2004) lets the viewer glimpse into the creative process of Scottish playwright James Matthew Barrie, the mind behind the beloved character Peter Pan.
The documentary drama, released in 2004, explores the friendship between Barrie and the Davies family that ultimately inspired the play “Peter Pan, or the Boy who Never Grew Up.” After Barrie’s play “Little Mary” gets unexpectedly disastrous reviews, he is lost. Barrie then meets widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four sons, who become his muses.
Only Johnny Depp could could portray someone as whimsical and imaginative as Barrie, and his interactions with the four boys are the film’s highlight. From pretending to be a bear-tamer to playing cowboys, Depp’s antics never cease to delight.
Freddie Highmore, Joe Prospero, Nick Roud and Luke Spill are all wonderful as the Davies boys and are just as successful as their adult co-stars at bringing drama to the film.
Much like Peter Pan, “Finding Neverland” focuses on the theme of growing up. The Davies children have to mature quickly because their mother becomes seriously ill. Barrie’s Peter Pan is a memorial and celebration of their childhood and the summer they spent together.
“Finding Neverland” is a deeply relatable story because we all, on some level, feel the need to preserve memories and aspects of our child-selves.
The film took liberties with the historical timeline and record of Barrie’s life, particularly ignoring of some of the more controversial accusations made against him. However, the film is probably better for it, and creative license is to be expected in the documentary drama genre.
“Finding Neverland” was nominated for numerous Academy Awards in 2005, including Best Picture, Art Direction, Adapted Screenplay and Film Editing. Depp’s portrayal of Barrie also earned him a best actor nomination.
The aesthetic period sets and costumes are pleasing to the eye. You can almost smell the flowers as you stroll along in a Victorian era English park.
The film’s exceptional soundtrack won the Best Music Score accolade. Jan Kaczmarek and Nick Ingman crafted a beautiful musical backdrop as well. The piece “Finding Neverland — A Variation in Blue” is a masterwork for piano.
Foster’s “Finding Neverland” brings out your inner child and is a wonderful addition to your Netflix list.