Movies about writers: Finding Neverland

The recent movie Finding Neverland (released in 2004) starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet is a somewhat fictionalized version of a part of the life of British writer J.M. Barrie. The movie’s plot is focussed mainly on the friendship the author had with the children of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. It is a moving film about the author’s struggle to maintain his credibility as an author while his marriage is beginning to crumble. At the same time his friendship with the children and their ailing mother brings some lighter, happier moments to his life, and inspires him to write his classic story Peter Pan, the work for which he is best known.

The movie never really deals much with the process of writing except for several scenes where Barrie is shown in the park writing in a notebook. What is understated is Barrie’s ability to take real life situations and use these experiences to fantasize and dream. The young Freddie Highmore as Peter does a superb job as his character struggles to come to terms with the death of his father and his mother’s illness. He is Barrie’s inspiration for the character Peter Pan, the boy who never wanted to grow up.

I found it a strangely moving film. The pace is slow, the dialogue introspective and the atmosphere somewhat moody. It shows very well that, for many writers, their personal lives impact strongly on their writing lives. The oft quoted mantra by teachers of writing, “write what you know” is clearly illustrated through this film as Barrie draws on real life situations to inspire his writing. It also shows the power of dreaming and the potency of using one’s imagination, even in the face of tragedy.

Links: Finding Neverland – the official website, including the trailer.


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