Marc Forster’s new film, Finding Neverland, exquisitely fuses fantasy and reality in portraying how J.M. Barrie alit on the inspiration for Peter Pan. At first glance, this sumptuous retooling of Edwardian London, circa 1904, with its lavish nights at the theatre and bouts of fanciful child’s play, seems an unusual choice to follow up Monster’s Ball. Yet with these two films, and with Forster’s Everything Put Together, a horror-comedy about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, certain common threads emerge: the issue of mortality, how each of us responds differently to grief, and in Forster’s words, “the deep human need for illusions – even in the face of tragedy.”
Johnny Depp stars as Barrie, whose most recent play, a stodgy, drawing-room comedy, fails miserably at the Duke of York’s Theatre. On a stroll through Kensington Gardens the morning after, Barrie meets the four young Llewelyn-Davies brothers and their beautiful, recently widowed mother Sylvia, played by Kate Winslet, who here projects a peach cobbler radiant earthiness, equally robust and refined. In time, Barrie becomes a father figure to the boys, playing games of pirate ships and cowboys ‘n’ Indians, giving the lads the male chi they’ve been missing since their father’s death.
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