"Overcoming Tragedy and Sadness"
What You Need To Know:
Barrie provides a stable, virtue-based home life for the children. His actions personify love and make no room for selfishness. The only note of warning is that he might be emotionally unfaithful to his wife, although this is unclear. FINDING NEVERLAND is sweet, uplifting, and made several people at the press screening cry. Entertainment as affirming and positive as this is rare.
(BB, H, V, D, M) Very strong moral viewpoint with man caring for orphans and instilling people with hope instead of negativity and fear, though with some humanist underpinnings; no foul language; brief scene in which a child smashes some props made for a backyard play; no sexual activity or nudity; no alcohol; background characters smoke cigars; and, man is inattentive to his wife because of artistic pursuits and, perhaps, another woman.
FINDING NEVERLAND reveals playwright J. M. Barrie as he writes his enduring success, PETER PAN. With a terrifically solid cast that includes Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, and Dustin Hoffman, the movie is filled with positive, moral attitudes that encourage a hopeful outlook in place of depression and defeat.
Playing in the park with his dog, Barrie meets the Davies children and their widowed mother Sylvia. They are a sedate lot whose childlike enthusiasm has been muted since the death of their father. The writer begins a quest to spark their imaginations and their zeal for living. As he gets to know the boys better and spends almost all of his time playing with them, he is inspired to write an adventure story about children who never have to grow up, so they maintain their senses of excitement and wonder forever.
The most evident change is seen in Peter Davies, who Barrie likes so much that he names the play’s title character after him. Peter is the most serious-minded and humorless of all the children. For a long time, Barrie’s charms and jokes are lost on him. Eventually, with Barrie as a model, Peter attains hope that life will improve and become manageable. Although he has to deal with great sadness, he learns to not be defeated by it.
On the surface, Barrie proposes fantasy as a defense against sadness, but if you look closer, he is actually providing the Davies family with a stable father figure and a positive, virtue-based home life. His actions personify love for others and make no room for selfishness. He makes himself a friend to all, especially those who feel friendless. When the play debuts, he sets aside a large block of seats for an orphanage. He knows the children will connect with his play and see the joy in it that stuffy adults might miss.
In this way, FINDING NEVERLAND is extremely warm and uplifting. The only morally dubious note is that Barrie ignores his wife to spend time with the Davies, and although his original intention was to befriend the boys, he eventually falls in love with their mother Sylvia. His wife Mary is portrayed as a cold, unsympathetic person, so the audience is probably expected to gloss over Barrie’s potential infidelity.
The acting is extremely natural and unforced. Especially excellent is Johnny Depp, who seems to mature and grow with each movie. His accent also fits in with the other native British actors. The overall tone of this movie is sad, but the experience of seeing the movie is not sad. Hopefulness redeems the sadness and takes the sting out of it. Entertainment as affirming and positive as this movie comes along rarely. The makers of FINDING NEVERLAND should be congratulated.