Movies About Writers: J.M. Barrie

A few days ago, we celebrated Father’s Day. For some that been highlighting the appreciation of a father or father-figure. J.M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan, Or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up (or Peter and Wendy), didn’t have children of his own, but that didn’t stop him from being a role model for the Davies boys and become a sponsor for other orphaned children.

For this edition of Movies About Writers, I’ve chosen Finding Neverland (2004), staring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, which is semi-biographical on Barrie’s life and his relationship with the Llewelyn Davies boys.

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The movie begins with James Barrie (Johnny Depp) pacing nervously behind a curtain. He’s debuting a play that has received much anticipation, but his anxiety is clearly getting the best of him. Unfortunately, Barrie realizes the audience hadn’t enjoyed his latest production. Even during the gala after the performance, he can sense and hear the disappointment. His producer (Dustin Hoffman) puts pressure on Barrie that his next production must perform well.. financially. Even Mary, Barrie’s wife, is disappointed in the play and the reception of the play.

The following day, Barrie sets off to the park to read and write, and play with his beautiful St. Bernard dog. There, he meets the four Davies boys (George, Jack, Peter and Michael) and their mother Sylvia. Quickly befriending the boys and becoming their playmate, Barrie was inspired and envisioned a world where youth is treasured and little boys don’t grow up. Peter intrigued Barrie the most–he was a stubborn young boy who had stifled his imagination with a lot of pain and hurt in his heart. It was through his relationships with the boys, and especially with Peter, that James Barrie created the wonderful adventure of Peter Pan

Though the nature his relationship with the Davies boys is questioned through whispers, as is his relationship with Sylvia Davies, Barrie denies any unnatural or adulterous relationship, respectively.

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I think the story of Peter Pan, and contemporary adaptations, resonates with so many in a variety of ways. Whether it’s Hook, Disney’s Peter Pan, or P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan, retaining that pure youthful demeanor and innocence is something we all miss, if we admit to it or not.

I’ve read the first book of a series call Hook & Jill that is a little more mature in some scenes, and takes the story on a big more grown up adventure. Are there any adaptations–books or films–of Peter Pan that you enjoy or would recommend?  

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