ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  marc forster

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  drama

LENGTH  -  106 minutes

RELEASED  -  12 november 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  miramax pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  finding neverland

finding neverland - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from finding neverland at

buy the dvd from finding neverland at

the movie details the experiences of 'peter pan' author j.m. barrie, which lead him to write the children's classic.

during filming dustin hoffman lost the tip of a finger and performed one day of shooting on morphine.


picture from finding neverland

picture from finding neverland

picture from finding neverland

picture from finding neverland


four out of four possible stars

Sporting all the elements of a melodramatic weeper, director Marc Forster's Finding Neverland might have had all the potential to slide off the screen in weepy tears, but the talent packed into this film just doesn't allow that to happen. If one were to read a listing of the events that occur over the course of the film, one might conclude that the film was written to be a melodrama. And while that genre is not necessarily one to be, it is not always one that can earn respect of all viewers. This film though is far too engaging and enchanting to really allow any person, however critical, to find anything but delight in the story and characters.

Presenting his character the real-life author J.M. Barrie, with ease and wit, star Johnny Depp fills the role with his usual depth of intelligence and gives the audience more than they might have otherwise expected from a PG rated film. With the subject matter dealing rather consistently with the idea that "make believe" can be a great healer, it might have been easy to dismiss this film as one fit only for the youngest of viewers. At face value, the ideas and themes in the film could be easily suited to a children's television program. But the simple elegance of the production and the screenplay probably wouldn't allow for anything less than a feature film rendering.

In truth, some of the dialogue could be picked apart to reveal its simplicity, but this film doesn't seem to have been aimed solely at a very young audience. It's one of those rare films that could be seen as having been created with a general or wide audience in mind, but that wasn't "dumbed down" to allow enjoyment for that very wide spectrum of viewers. So many times a film can be pegged as something fit only for children that adults would sit through only if they had children, or something whose presentation demanded an older audience. The magic of this film is that its creators don't seem to have come to the drawing board with a specific demographic in mind.

And in doing so, they have produced a work of art that is not just suitable for absolutely any type of audience member, but that is also a valuable feature film experience. This isn't an adult level film that children would find entertaining only most of the time. And it's not a film aimed at children that would seem only palatable for adults. Maybe it's the basic subject matter (ideas concerning the marching on of time and the brief nature of youth are consistent in the story) that lends itself so easily to the enjoyment of any willing viewer. Of course, this success of story would not be half so excellent if the casting had been completed with any other set of actors.

It's not just the idea of the right cast coming together at the right time. It's more that the perfect cast was brought together for the perfect story. Each role seems to have been written specifically for the actor performing it, though it just might be as easily said that each actor inhabits his or her role so perfectly because they are each so talented. Beyond Depp's ability to capture both his character and the audience with his beautiful grasp of the spoken word and the physicality required of the role, Depp seems to give the character much more than what was probably lurking on the screenplay's pages during filming.

Whether it is in the form of facial expressions, body language, or Depp is so wholly J.M. Barrie that it is hard to imagine any other actor in this role. And many of the same compliments can be paid to Depp's co-star, Kate Winslet, who plays "Sylvia Llewelyn Davies," a widow with four rambunctious sons who eventually become the basis for Barrie's most famous work, "Peter Pan." Winslet is another actor who can just grab the heart of any audience viewer and squeeze it for all it's worth. The combination of Winslet's title as Most Beautiful Woman In Film with her intelligent attack regarding her character's presentation is a deadly duo and she is a perfect choice opposite Depp's strong showing.

Also hanging in the realm of impressive are the young boys chosen to represent the Davies children. In particular, the incredibly adriot actor Freddie Highmore, who plays the dour "Peter Llewelyn Davies" with the expertise of an actor with decades of film experience and he's only about 13 years old (though at the time this film was made, he was only about ten!). If ever a child's performance could be termed, "beautiful," Highmore's role would certainly earn it. And in his second performance in a film that deals with the world of Peter Pan (the first being Hook), Dustin Hoffman should earn congratulations for his portrayal as play producer, "Charles Frohman," as he finally hits the right note in believability and doesn't parade around like he owns the film (as he so often does in supporting roles).

Julie Christie is also a force to be reckoned with, playing Winslet's mother, and she infuses her supporting role with much more depth than one might expect from a person with so few minutes of screen time. In another supporting role, as Mrs. Barrie, Radha Mitchell gains both the sympathy and anger of the audience with a strong and subtle performance. The other child actors chosen to play the Davies children should share in the performance accolades as well, with Nick Roud, Joe Prospero, and Luke Spill each being cast well for their roles. But even as the praise of the cast could take up the room necessary for a novel, so too should the other creative elements of the film be complimented.

Working in perfect tandem, the costuming and set design bring the world of London to life in a simple yet elegant way, with the costumes and sets requiring the crew to create everything from high society London to the quaint English countryside. It is not a complete surprise that the production should seem so well put together, but with the subtlety of the performances and the way each of the actors seems to fall into the era without a inch of difficulty, the crew's visual efforts are given ample time to shine, yet don't overwhelm the production by any means. But Finding Neverland is more than just a well-made film. And it's not something that can just boast a few extraordinary elements that sit upon a bed of mediocrity.

More than being simply "well-made," every aspect of the film is highly creative and solidly presented, ensuring that a great percentage of the audience will be completely enthralled with the story and its performers. It is almost the standard for Hollywood films with a healthy budget to boast a talented crew regarding the visual arts of production design, cinematography, etc., and though performances aren't always worth loads of praise, one can usually count on a studio film exhibiting all the signs of professionalism audience members expect. Viewers of this film will be pleasantly surprised that the cast and crew went far beyond what might have otherwise been expected, to create what is an extraordinary and valuable work of art.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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