FRIDAY REVIEW

"Finding Neverland"

"Finding Neverland" ... has ethereal charm  

WHERE FAST paced action and breezy romance are a fad, a sensitive story of love and geniality may not hold instant appeal, but it could be a film that you would think about, savour and enjoy long after you leave the cinema hall. This year's Academy nominee for the Best Motion Picture of the Year, "Finding Neverland," (U), presented by Miramax International and produced by Film Colony, is one such. Granted, it could do with some pace. Yet the Neverland of Peter Pan, recreated with touches from the life of its author, James Mathew Barrie, has an ethereal charm about it. Directed by Marc Forster, the film set in 1903, exotically opens in London's Kensington Gardens and oscillates between fantasy and reality. When the two fuse you cannot but marvel the ingenuity of its maker Marc.

The empathy and warmth Johnny Depp lends to the role of the Scottish author J. M. Barrie is remarkable. Underplay as an art is cultivated to perfection by Depp and the two children, who play the older boys of the Llewellyn Davies' family. The boys, numbering four, and their bewitching mother, the young widow Sylvia (Kate Winslet) become an indispensable part of Barrie's life. Traversing with them in the world of make-believe where they encounter Indians, pirates, fairies, kings and cowboys, Barrie draws enough inspiration to create a masterpiece of fictional drama, "Peter Pan." And the overwhelming response to his play from the audience, both young and old, seems to underline the truth that a child exists in every man. The theatrical company headed by Charles Frohman (Dustin Hoffman) is bewildered at the bizarre props that Barrie asks for. "You are out of your mind James," Hoffman tells him. But nothing is going to dissuade Barrie from doing the play in the way he wants to. And the visualisation pays off.

Barrie's wife, Mary Ansell (Radha Mitchell) is naturally unhappy about her husband's interest in Sylvia and her sons. And so is Sylvia's mom Emma Du Maurier (a beautifully executed part by Julie Christie). But neither can stop Barrie. The film ends on a poignant note — one that makes a deep impact. Kate Winslet's is not a very natural enactment, but she adds a lot of dignity to her role of the sad and ill woman who adores her children. The way she walks out of this world in all her grace is a beautifully conceived sequence.

Music is magical throughout in this fantasy fare — it is a well-deserved Oscar for Jan A. P. Kaczmarek for his Original Score, in "Finding Neverland." Based on Allan Knee's play, "The Man Who Was Peter Pan," David Magee's screenplay spins a yarn that takes you on a dream-like 106-minute trip to that enchanting place called Neverland — all you need is the patience to imagine and the will to believe.

MALATHI RANGARAJAN

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