Finding Neverland

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A reworking of reality that never manages to convince--it tries so hard to let us feel that a man living the life of a child is perfectly ordinary, respectable even. However, there is a disturbing undercurrent throughout the film.

For one thing, the story sets off on the wrong foot by distorting the reality of Barrie's relationship with the Davis-Llewellyn children. It does this by giving us the family with four (rather than five) sons headed by the mother Sylvia--the father has died of cancer of the jaw before the story begins. In fact, when Barrie took up his relationship with the family the patriarch Arthur was alive and thoroughly disapproving.

The unfortunate circumstances of the deaths of some of the children also raise questions about Barrie's ultimate influence. Michael drowned at Oxford and Peter ended up committing suicide in 1960.

The film sanitizes this story and manipulates us into believing that all of the events portrayed were acceptable and even respectable, that it was what was best for the boys and that living a life of irresponsible pursuit of other people's children with concomitant neglect of one's own family is a reasonable and even loving thing to do.

While beautifully filmed and acted, there are so many disjuncts with reality and with the truly dark things that permeate this story that the film failed for me. Rather than facing some of the difficulties, we are given the romanticized, washed-clean version, in which divorce is just fine so long as it frees one to pursue his or her personal expression.

Perhaps I read the film too closely. As much as I am inclined to really like Johnny Depp, I found this film disconcerting and disturbing. I do not recommend it.

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I actually liked it, probably because I didn't now the actual facts of the case. However, I saw clearly the disconnect between Barrie ignoring reality and his wife's unhappiness which eventually led to her leaving him. That was subtly portrayed but not seen by any of our family as a positive. Also subtle but not left unmentioned was the fact that Barrie's relationship was being judged by society ... and although that was shown as a judgment on society, in fact, we saw it also as an indictment on his selfishness that would ignore her reputation to gratify his own needs (which takes us back to his wife leaving him). I am not sure you can judge any movie like this against the true story as that would leave us with no movie capable of being judged ... Seabiscuit, The Aviator, Delovely, etc. All are filtered to some extent or other ... one must judge the ultimate message of the movie itself as that is often the only experience that most people have of the "real" story and none are left untouched. I do agree that the portrayal of the negatives are extremely subtle and probably our family is better than most at picking them out. Perhaps we also were reading the film too closely ... but in the other direction!

Dear Julie,

I don't so much mind filtering--as you point out, that is necessary. But I know far too many people who would readily take Barrie's way out--eternal childhood. And THAT is quite disturbing. Especially when it is romanticized.

I don't demand absolute adherence to facts, but I do think that this went beyond mere subtle distortion into the realm of outright error--all in pursuit of a suspicious and objectionable agenda.

Remaining young-at-heart is a wonderful thing. Remaining a child throughout your life is not. And that is another really disturbing undercurrent of the film.

But I must admit it is beautiful. And I also really like your attitude--much like that of St. Ignatius--where something may be interpreted in accord with Church Doctrine, do so. That is the charitable way. Thank you.



Steven you are making me laugh ... is the St. Ignatius thing because we were so picky we looked for the moral lessons and found them? If so, I'm sure you won't be surprised to know we've trained the kids to do that both because of being advertising people (always look for the angle) and because it is their best defense against the morality of modern society ... kind of our apologetics when discussing these movies with friends. Of course, you're right that the movie adored innocent childhood and forgave Depp's character practically everything ... maybe that's also why we were looking for the underlying messages ... and most won't bother.

I agree with your comments, Steven. I, too, was disturbed by the film. And I frankly didn't find the ending terribly heartening. "Use your imagination to pretend your mother is still alive"? I'll stick with the communion of the saints and the real hope of Heaven, thank you.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on April 11, 2005 7:12 AM.

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