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Finding Neverland’ blurs fiction and reality

Mark Bemenderfer | Tuesday, March 22, 2005

At what age do people lose their innocence? It is undeniable that children are born something that they shed as years go by. However, some people do not seem to grow old as many do – some remain young and innocent, even though they may physically age. “Finding Neverland” is a movie about such a man. “Finding Neverland,” directed by Marc Forster and starring Johnny Depp, is a movie about the London playwright Sir James M. Barrie. For those who are not familiar with the name, he was the creator of the Peter Pan story. The movie begins with the general public viewing Sir Barrie’s latest play, which is received poorly at best. This spurs Sir Barrie to create a new play, one that is good not only in the public’s eye, but his own as well.To create the play, however, he needs inspiration. One day in the park, Sir Barrie meets the Davies family, widower Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four sons. Within them Sir Barrie finds inspiration, and creates a play based upon the family and their imaginary adventures. Some drama ensues, but nothing that detracts from the fantasy nature of the film.To bring up an earlier point, Sir Barrie is the man with the child-like innocence. He plays with the four children as if he were one of them. Even more, he drives most of the games and leads them into what later becomes Peter Pan scenarios. Sir Barrie brings some joy into the children’s lives.But things don’t go too smoothly for Sir Barrie. Because he spends much of his days with the widow and her family, his own wife feels neglected, and even cheated on. But even worse, there is a rumor going around as to why he spends so much time with the little boys. They lack a father, and Sir Barrie slowly moves towards that role, but this is not seen by the people around them. Which leads to the one real complaint with the film, which is it never truly feels like the characters leave the fantasy. The Michael Jackson-esque rumors were rebutted by Sir Barrie, and never really became much of an issue. The issues that did become serious never felt too integral to the plot. The focus of the movie was always solely on Sir Barrie and the family, with all the other characters being of secondary concern.The ending, although bittersweet, doesn’t quite have the emotional punch that one would expect. Given the nature of the film, and how it likes to blur the lines between reality and fiction, the ending didn’t quite have the emotional pull that similar movies had. However, this is not due to a lack of acting ability. Depp once again turns in a fantastic performance as the London playwright. He even nails the accent, a trick that causes many actors to stumble. Kate Winslet also does a decent job in her role as Miss Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. All of the children were believable, to say the least. A lot of movies trip up a little when portraying children, but “Finding Neverland” doesn’t have this problem.The DVD itself was decent. Video and sound were both of moderate quality. No serious issues arose from either one. The special features were good, but not very long. There is a commentary, a special making-of, a feature called “The Magic of Finding Neverland,” one called “Creating Neverland,” some deleted scenes, and some outtakes. It’s the usual stuff, with nothing of any real notice. Was “Finding Neverland” worth seven Oscar nods? Perhaps, but for some it was not. It’s a light, fun movie that never really delves into the darkness that is implied.