Finding Neverland (PG)
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Time Out saysForster, director of the impressively handled ‘Monster’s Ball’, applies an equally sensitive touch to this story of the affair between JM Barrie (the playwright of ‘Peter Pan’) and sparkling married mother of five Sylvia Llewelyn Davies (Kate Winslet). Trouble is, scurrilous Edwardian minds thought the affair had more to do with Barrie’s interest in Davies’s lovely children; a matter Allan Knee and David Magee’s script alludes too but deems beside the point. The point this film attempts to express is more about transcendence; not only how the children’s imaginations act as Barrie’s artistic muse and help him come to terms with the early death of his beloved older brother, but also how the childlike Barrie, in providing chaste consolation for the grieving Sylvia, dignifies the value of the non-sexual side of caring relationships.
It’s a difficult trick to pull off, not least within the confines of the conventional ‘quality’ drama, and if the film is partially successful, it is in no small measure due to overall good performances. Dustin Hoffman’s producer Charles Frohman, Julie Christie as Sylvia’s frosty mother and the young Freddie Highmore as the sensitive Peter Davies deserve mention alongside an unhistrionic Winslet as terminally ill Sylvia and Depp’s beautifully judged innocent. Forster’s feel for Edwardian London, with its echoes of ‘Topsy-Turvy’-esque theatreland, can tend to the derivative, but he handles well, notably in the garden play scenes and the effect-generated fusion of fantasy and reality. But the whole is infused by an awkward decorum; the kind that descends on a gathering dominated by an unmentioned death or transgression.