Finding Neverland Review
Finding Neverland is a 2004 biographical drama film directed by Marc Foster and starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. It was nominated for a couple of Oscars including Best Picture and is regarded as one of the best films of the year. I agree as it is such a beautiful and sumptuous film.
It is about a playwright J. M. Barrie and it especially follows his relationship with a woman and her children who are the family who inspired him to create Peter Pan. It is such a fascinating story that at first may not appear to be so, but I quickly got invested in it. It perfectly shows you how he came to the idea of Peter Pan, how he created it while also showing his personality and his relationship with that family which are all the reasons why it so wonderfully works as a biopic. This is one of the best biographical films I’ve seen and the one that is both entertaining and endearing. The whole third act is just wonderful. It never goes into maudlin territory, but is rather so incredibly emotional and heartbreaking but also inducing happy emotions as well. It certainly is one of the finest conclusions in this genre. And although the jump from real to imagination scenes during play times is not particularly well executed and it takes its time to get there, it still ends wonderfully and the whole second half of the movie is just breathtaking to behold.
The characters are great. Barrie is a very likable person and the film explores this famous writer wonderfully and I finally learned something about him in the process. Sylvia is so wonderful as well and she was so heartbreaking later on. The relationship between the two is so touching. And although Sylvia’s mother was on the verge of being vilified in the beginning, she still came out as a well written character near the end. The kids are also well depicted and the relationship between Peter and Barrie is so wonderful and in those last scenes so satisfying. And as for Mary, she was very unlikable in the first half, but she still was wonderful near the end with her decision with Barrie and I really cared for her in the end as well as she was suffering and she proved that she was a good person nevertheless.
The acting is superb across the board. Depp is excellent and this is back in the day when he wasn’t over-the-top all the time and he really gave such a stupendous performance here. Radha Mitchell is so good as well and Julie Christie is superb. Kate Winslet was probably the highlight for me as she had the most difficult role and she did a great job in it. The kids are very weak, but Freddie Highmore did a surprisingly good job as Peter.
As I said in my opening statement, the movie is sumptuous for sure. It has splendid cinematography and terrific costumes and score as well. It is well shot and surprisingly well directed, but also well acted and mostly really well paced. The imagery is beautiful with both the interior decorations and especially the play costumes and backgrounds being breathtaking. The movie also has a great script with superb dialogue and some fine intricacies as well. It is sophisticated and also always moving. The first half is not as good with some scenes being too prolonged, but the second one is superb with such a powerful ending. The tone is deft with a great mix of melodrama, romance and humor.
Now, Finding Neverland was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor for Depp and Best Picture, both of which highly deserved. Best Adapted Screenplay is also well deserved as are all of its technical nominations. It just won the award for Original Score which is a shame as it deserved more and I also believe that Kate Winslet was snubbed as she at least deserved a nomination for her excellent work in the movie. This is one of the better biopics I’ve watched and it even trumps the source material. I enjoyed Disney’s ‘Peter Pan‘ very much, but this is one of those rare films that is about the original work but ends up being better quality-wise which is an incredible achievement. It also has somewhat of a Tim Burton feel to it not just because of the actor but also because of the style and with its story being rather similar in tone to another fantastic movie ‘Big Fish‘.