Pirates, fairies, crocodiles and tortured soul

A historical revision of J.M. Barrie's life doesn't fly

Claire Joseph

Director Marc Forster’s last film was “Monster’s Ball,” an intense look at race relations in the Deep South. Hard stuff.

This time around, he’s documenting the life of Scottish playwright James Matthew Barrie, author of “Peter Pan.” On the surface, Forster’s new subject matter might seem a bit airy, but conflict simmers just out of sight.

Johnny Depp plays Barrie at a point in the playwright’s life when he’s tired of making tedious plays for upper-class British audiences.

While writing in the park with his St. Bernard, Barrie meets four boys and their widowed mother, played by Kate Winslet.

Barrie’s bond with these boys, especially one of the middle sons, Peter, is immediate and, to some onlookers, inappropriate.

Barrie’s cold wife (Radha Mitchell), who sleeps in the bedroom next to his, also frowns on his new friendships.

Through his relationship with the boys, Barrie recalls qualities of childhood, such as wonder and imagination, which he lost in adulthood. At the same time, Barrie teaches the boys how to be adults and how to take care of their bedridden mother.

The outcome of his unusual friendships is the creation of the fantastical play, “Peter Pan,” an immediate theatrical hit with both the poor and the rich, and the old and the young.

“Finding Neverland’s” main quality is found in its majestic imagery, which gives it the innocent feeling of the beautifully filmed “Big Fish” with a more fathomable plot.

The critical eye looking down on Barrie’s relationship with the boys is something audiences can relate to today. With the recent furor around celebrities and pedophilia, viewers may debate the acceptable boundaries of friendship between adults and children.

Barrie, of course, is not shown to have been intimate with any of these children, but even his friendships might be considered suspect. The film’s eventual point, of course, is that friendships between children and adults are beneficial to all, as long as they remain platonic.

The film investigates the advantages of both childhood and adulthood, and it stresses the fact that no matter how old you are, it’s always beneficial to have youth in your soul.