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Finding Neverland

February 4, 2005

I went into this movie with relatively low expectations. The subject matter isn’t something that I’m intrinsically attached to, and period pieces aren’t usually my cup of tea. I was thus pleasantly surprised by the film.

Finding Neverland is the story of J.M. Barrie, and his connection to a family who has recently lost its patriarch. The widow and her four sons take up adventuring with the inspired playwright in the dour and disapproving world of Victorian London.

The role of Mr. Barrie is performed by Johnny Depp, who does a surprisingly good job with the quiet and sad writer. He does an excellent job carrying the flag forward in the film, and displays several layers of Barrie’s character without seeming overly like a goof.

As well as Depp does in the role of Barrie, some of the supporting characters make great impressions as well. Radha Mitchell plays Barrie’s estranged wife, a great role for her. The young boy who plays Peter, Freddie Highmore, is extremely precocious and has an evocative face. Dustin Hoffman plays the backer for the film in a very small and wry role that may be my favorite performance in the movie.

The sets and effects were effective, evoking the surreality of Barrie’s writing and the soul-crushing mundanity of London with equal care. Likewise, the music underscored the plot without calling undue attention to itself.

All in all I had a pleasant experience with the film. I’m not sure that I would go out of my way to see it again, but it was a nice surprise for what would have otherwise been a quiet evening.

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