49. Finding Neverland
After watching Pirates of the Caribbean and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I looked forward to seeing Johnny Depp in other films. His quirky characters caused my whole family to chuckle and quote his witty remarks. However, there seemed to be a depth underlying his acting that touched me. Not until film Finding Neverland did I see what a talented dramatic actor he was. This movie about the author of Peter Pan both inspired and saddened me. The themes of death, imagination, and hope caused me to choose it for Media Monday.
Synopsis: J. M. Barrie wants to write beautiful plays and stories, but no one seems to enjoy his work. Even his wife is pulling away from him. Then the author meets three young boys and their widowed mother, Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. Despite rumors that crop up, a friendship begins that inspires and brings joy to the imaginative author. Through these new relationships, Barrie begins to pen a new story about a boy who never grew up.
Recovery Pluses: Imagination is a powerful tool that can draw us closer to others or frighten them away. We can use creativity to bring beauty into the world or hurt ourselves and others. Finding Neverland explores the power of imagination but also hints at its darker side. Barrie’s marriage appears to be crumbling partly because of his eccentric habits. His wife is unable to reach him and understand his mind. Slowly, Barrie begins to open to others with Sylvia and her children so that he can bring others into his art. Likewise, the public is enlightened and allows themselves to become creative along with the author.
This brings about another important theme for recovery: childhood. In some ways, Barrie appears to still be like a young boy. Yet, the world forced him to grow up although he retains the innocence, hope, and imagination of a child. Peter, the youngest of Sylvia’s boys, is the opposite of Barrie. Although little, he refuses to engage in imaginative play and has lost joy because of needing to grow up to fast with the loss of his father. Both characters learn from each other. This film shows the importance of childish optimism and creativity while facing mature issues and great losses. Many people with mental illness long to go back to childhood and regain some of that innocence. Others fear this part of their life and try to hide from it. Some even feel eternally stuck with a kid’s brain. Whatever the case, our childhood impacts us greatly. Finding a way to bring back some of the beauty of the time (or have something you were robbed of) is often an important part of recovery.
The theme of death in this film is troubling but important to address. We are forced to ask ourselves what happens when a loved one dies. Also, Finding Neverland causes audience to think about their own deaths. Do you want to go comfortably or fight for every day? How do we care for those we leave behind? What will our legacy be? Because no one can be a child or live forever at least in the manner that we are right now. These questions are difficult and yet portrayed in a hopeful manner.
Cautions: Finding Neverland has children in it but is a serious film. A few swear words are uttered, the relationship between Barrie and Sylvia and her sons is questioned, and death is a central theme. Other mature issues are addressed in a very discreet fashion. Thus, this film is very clean but emotionally heavy. Teenagers and older should be able to enjoy it.
Finding Neverland was a bit of a shock for me. I was not expecting such a serious and deep film. However, the impact it made was positive and long-lasting. Although death and the need to grow up are central themes, hope and imagination triumph at the end. Although you might need a few days to decide whether you like this film or not, watching it will leave you pondering deeper questions and hopefully moving forward in recovery.
Finding Neverland trailer on YouTube
Finding Neverland on Rotten Tomatoes