Creative people get asked the question all the time: “Where do you get your ideas from?” It’s a question that mystifies creative people, who know that if we aren’t a million ideas behind, we’re doing something wrong: the problem isn’t finding ideas, it’s in stopping the flow in order to concentrate on just a few of them. Inspiration is everywhere, in all the places we go and in all the people we meet… and I’ve never seen a film capture that sense of being immersed in one’s own imagination better than Finding Neverland does.
Oh, but this is a magical film, one that transports us not only to another, more delightful, place and time — an Edwardian England that’s slightly idealized, heightened in its charm and refinement — but to within the vivid flights of fancy of a writer whose fantastical inventions — Neverland, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell — continue to mesmerize us and speak to us today, a century later. (The first version of Peter Pan — J.M. Barrie continued to revise it — had its West End debut on December 27, 1904.) This isn’t the precisely true story of how Barrie was moved to write the play, but it does, perhaps even more appropriately to the themes it explores, take its inspiration from reality. David Magee’s wonderfully perceptive script, loosely based on Allan Knee’s play, finds the larger truths in Barrie’s story, about the openness of mind and the willingness to daydream and the retention of a childlike perspective necessary to create the kinds of things that help the rest of the boring old grownup world recapture the sense of wonder they lost in the transition to respectable adulthood.
None of these larger truths will come as a newsflash to anyone who creates, or indeed to anyone who’s seen a few movies about creative people. It’s in the way they’re presented that takes your breath away and reduces you to blubbery tears of joy, like the unspeakably lovely moment of imagination taking literal/
If the pirate scenes can’t help but act as a bookend with Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean performance, that’s fine, because it only serves as a reminder that this is an actor who has never let grownup inhibitions restrain him — he gives an all, always and particularly here, that combines the exhilaration of a child at play with an adult melancholy that comes from being profoundly aware of the fleetingness of moments of unbound joy. At a quick first glance, it might appear that Depp’s Barrie, a man prone to dancing with his dog, is more of a child than nine-
I shan’t even get into the six-
Watch Finding Neverland online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.