Finding Neverland (2004)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Biopic [feature], Period Film  |   Release Date - Sep 4, 2004 (USA - Unknown), Nov 12, 2004 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 238 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Perry Seibert

The modestly scaled Finding Neverland is a marvel of tone -- it is an emotional film that never feels melodramatic or manipulative while offering some wonderfully charming and funny moments. Serious emotional pains are felt throughout the film, from the death of a parent to the death of a marriage to the death of a child. Director Marc Forster never flinches from the truth of that pain, but allows J.M. Barrie to share his fantasy world with the people he loves in order to make the pain more tolerable. Considering the wildly melodramatic sections of Forster's previous film (Monster's Ball), it is surprising that he would be capable of such subtlety. Johnny Depp usually gets his most impressive reviews for playing larger than life eccentrics (Captain Jack Sparrow, Hunter S. Thompson, Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood). One of the pleasures of Finding Neverland is watching him play an eccentric on a human scale. His James M. Barrie is prone to daydreaming, but these moments arise out of mundane, everyday activities. As Barrie watches the four children jump on their beds, he imagines them flying out the window, and the moment has a sense of wonderment about it because the audience shares Barrie's pleasure in the image. Forster allows the audience to see the world as Barrie sees it, and Depp grounds the performance in reality, making it easier to accept the intricate daydreams and pretend worlds. Finding Neverland wants little more than to allow the audience to learn the same lesson that Kate Winslet and her boys do, and it succeeds with charm, warmth, and sensitivity.