Based on the short story “The Man Who Was Peter Pan,” written by Allen Knee, “Finding Neverland” stars Johnny Depp as James M. Barrie, a respected playwright who is having trouble coming up with a decent play. He runs into the classic case of stupid play syndrome. His luck begins to change when he meets Sylvia (Kate Winslet), a widow, and her four young boys. One of her boys, Peter, has difficulty getting over the loss of his father. Barrie befriends this family in order to bring a little light into their lives. He encourages Peter to become a writer also while taking the entire family on magical imaginary adventures. However, trouble and controversy follow this good deed. The entire community, including Barrie’s wife and Sylvia’s own mother, misconstrue the nature of the meetings between Barrie and this family. All through the murmurs, Barrie continues to write what would become his masterpiece play, Peter Pan.
With a few somewhat predictable, yet nonetheless amazing, twists, “Finding Neverland” can be considered one of the best movies of the year. The chemistry between the actors is simply superb. Johnny Depp plays Barrie magnificently; he acts with such ease that it is hard to imagine anyone else playing that role. Depp’s portrayal of emotions and the overall way in which he carries himself throughout the course of the film only adds to the natural feel it possesses. Depp proves himself to be a versatile actor in the film after coming away from films like “Secret Window” and “Pirates of the Caribbean,” two completely different cinematic genres. Not to be outshone is Winslet, who also portrays her role with similar ease. It hardly seems as though she is even acting. Even though her role is small compared to the others, Winslet definitely proves that it isn’t the magnitude of the role, but the quality of the portrayal that counts.
I must say that Winslet and Depp serve as only supporting actors when compared to the boy who plays Peter, Freddie Highmore, who absolutely steals the show. I was impressed by the level of maturity exhibited by Highmore, who couldn’t be older than nine years old. His style of acting is very natural and effortless. Highmore brings the sense of innocence to Peter that was necessary in order to make such a beautiful film. Marc Foster, acclaimed director of “Monster’s Ball,” puts together one exquisite film. Every single detail, from the costumes to the background score, only adds to the splendor of the movie. Foster’s direction transports his audience to early 20th century London. “Finding Neverland” is one film that is meant for all ages; children and grandparents alike can enjoy this film. The message of imagining and maintaining innocence in a corrupt world will definitely resonate with many. If you only make it to the movies once this holiday season, “Finding Neverland” is your best bet.