I think it’s safe to say that most moviegoers have an irrational opinion about at least one famous actor or actress in Hollywood. For me, it’s Johnny Depp. I cannot stand him and usually end up hating his movies, despite the fact that they are (more often than not) highly acclaimed by both critics and audiences alike. I have no idea why I don’t like his acting; I just don’t.
I had heard that the 2004 film Finding Neverland, based on the true story of Sir J.M. Barrie’s odd relationship with a woman and her cildren, was very good. But I stayed away from it until now because Depp was in it. What a mistake that was!
The truth is that Finding Neverland was an absolutely delightful movie in nearly every respect. Depp stars as Barrie, who, back in 1903 was just coming off a big box office failure. Charles Frohman (played by Dustin Hoffman) is the man who owns and operates the playhouse where Barrie’s works are staged, and he demands a big hit the next time out or Barrie is finished.
We get the feeling that Barrie is the kind of writer who requires a great deal of inspiration to get something out on the page. Fortunately, he finds an incredible source of inspiration as he’s reading on a park bench one day. That’s when he observes the widow Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet) and her four boys playing in the distance. Barrie ends up becoming friends with the family, and spends more time with them than he does with his own wife (played by Radha Mitchell).
The rest of the film shows how Barrie’s relationship with the family blooms, how other people start talking about the unusual arrangement, how Barrie’s wife wonders what’s going on, how Barrie tries to win over the eldest child Peter, and how Barrie finally comes up with the story of Peter Pan.
I was completely won over by this story and by all the performances in it. I can finally see why everyone says that Johnny Depp is one of the best actors of our generation, and I really enjoyed Freddie Highmore’s turn as Peter. Winslet also held her own as the sick widow, and is slowly becoming one of my favorite actresses.
Finding Neverland is a wonderful film that is both entertaining and emotionally charged. I give it 5 stars out of 5 and think that you’ll really enjoy it!