Finding Neverland

 Marc Forster's "Finding Neverland" (2004) is a mistake of a movie and in my opinion it should never have been made.

 I'm no fan of people altering facts when making biographical films even if they DO write "inspired by true events" at the beginning, and that is exactly what Marc Forster does in "Finding Neverland". The story is about a handsome, young author, James Barrie (Johnny Depp), who falls in love with the pretty, young widow, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet), and her four sons, George (Nick Roud), Jack (Joe Prospero), Peter (Freddie Highmore) and Michael (Luke Spill). Barrie then leaves his wife Mary (Radha Mitchell) and inspired by Peter he writes Peter Pan. Well…anyone who knows the slightest about Sir James Matthew Barrie knows that this is not what happened.


First of all one of the Llewelyn Davies boys is missing from the film, namely the youngest, Nico, who was just a baby when Peter Pan was first staged. Secondly Barrie wasn't as fond of Peter Llewelyn Davies in real life as he is in the film and in fact he based Peter Pan on George and especially Michael Llewelyn Davies and NOT on Peter. Thirdly the boys' father, Arthur Llewelyn Davies, is missing from the film as in real life he knew Barrie for 9 years before he passed away from cancer. His initial dislike of Barrie played a big part in the way Peter and Jack perceived the author, but in the film this dislike seems to have been taken over by the boys' grandmother, Emma du Maurier (Julie Christie). As far as I know the real Mrs. du Maurier had nothing against Barrie.

 Furthermore in real life Sylvia didn't fall ill until 6 years after the first staging of Peter Pan. In real life it was the boys and not Sylvia who won Barrie's heart and in real life Barrie's wife didn't divorce him because of Sylvia, but because Barrie had a rare gland disease that made it impossible for him to fulfil his marital obligations.

 As for the actors, I'm a huge fan of Johnny Depp, but he should never have been chosen to play Sir J. M. Barrie. Barrie was a plain-looking Scotsman with a bushy moustache, whereas Depp is a handsome American with no moustache. He is also not as sombre, grumpy, sentimental and whimsical as Barrie was. Freddie Highmore is very professional as Peter Llewelyn Davies, Kate Winslet is sweet and pretty as the tragic heroin Sylvia and Dustin Hoffman, who played Hook in Spielberg's 1991 Peter Pan film "Hook", is surprisingly dull as Charles Frohman, Barrie's American theatrical producer.

 There ARE magic moments in "Finding Neverland" such as the orphans attending the play and the performance of the play for Sylvia - both things that didn't happen in real life - but it isn't the magic of Peter Pan. In fact the film has much more in common with Tim Burton's 2003 film "Big Fish" than with the true story and magic of Sir Barrie and Peter Pan and that is a big shame.

 As you can probably guess I'm not a fan of "Finding Neverland", so I can only give it 2 out of 5 stars: **

 © Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 2004