Director Marc Forster’s follow-up to “Monster’s Ball” is “Finding Neverland,” a tale of magic and fantasy inspired by the life of James Barrie, the real-life author of the children’s classic Peter Pan. Set in London in 1904, the film follows Barrie’s creative journey to bring Peter Pan to life, from his first inspiration for the story up until the play’s premiere at the Duke of York’s Theatre – a night that will change not only Barrie’s own life, but the lives of everyone close to him. David Magee’s screenplay is based on the play “The Man Who was Peter Pan” written by Allan Knee.
This is by far the best performance of Johnny Depp’s career in my opinion. Of course he has had some good roles in “Edward Scissorhands,” “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” “Sleepy Hollow” and some others, but I felt more drawn into his role as James Barrie than I have any of his others. Never knowing the story of how “Peter Pan” came to be one of the classic plays, I found this film to be very interesting. Barrie takes to the Davies family, a widowed woman and her three sons. He spends a tremendous amount of time with them, playing kid games and acting out imaginary scenarios. The kids really take to him and a wonderful bond is created even though it puts a strain on his marriage.
The play “Peter Pan” finally comes together and is produced despite Barrie’s last play being an utter flop. The film is true to the English lifestyle in the early 1900’s by not containing any profanities or obscene language. And unlike Kate Winslet’s steamy sex scene in “Titanic,” “Finding Neverland” stays away from any sex, nudity and graphic violence. This film is one that the entire family can enjoy, but it might be too slow moving for young children. In addition, the theme of the death of the Davies kids’ father and how they all deal with it may be too sensitive of an issue for younger children. This is a wonderfully clean and touching film, and I found it refreshing and entertaining. Freddie Highmore does a marvelous job playing Peter Davies.