“Lost on a mysterious island where aging and time have come unglued, Wendy must fight to save her family, her freedom, and the joyous spirit of youth from the deadly peril of growing up.”-IMDB
Let’s start from the end and work our way backwards. I am giving this film nine out of ten Claire Bears solely because I understand that it may not be everyone’s taste and I want this blog to help friends decide whether they really want to spend the time, money, and energy on a movie. However, in my opinion and according to my own tastes, this is a ten out of ten.
As someone that grew up on Hook and then loved the book (although I have always acknowledged that it’s possibly one of the most depressing novels of all time), I have always loved the tales of Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Wendy, The Lost Boys, and Neverland. And no, I’m not including the Disney movie in that list because, although it has one of the best rides in Disneyland, it’s really not one of Disney’s best. As soon as I saw the preview for Wendy, I knew I had to see it. I had been talking to my theater-going pals about going to see it for months; but, of course,what happened? It came out at the end of February, as the world was turning upside down. So I jumped at the chance when I saw it was available for rent. You know that feeling of excitement when, within the first five minutes of a movie, you know it’s going to live up to all of your expectations (if not, I hope you get the chance one day). That was my experience with Wendy. Let me clarify…
This is the second time this past year that a movie with child leads has absolutely blown me away. The other was Jojo Rabbit, which I have to say is quite possibly my favorite movie of all time. Both movies harness the honesty in their child actors’ performances in order to deal with very adult subject matter, such as war, death, and the loss of innocence. Much is demanded of the actors in Wendy, as the characters begin to realize that Neverland is not all it’s cracked up to be. These young actors are able to convey the joy and freedom of childhood and then pivot into existential crisis mode as they are confronted with true and imagined losses.
I also appreciated how the filmmakers stayed true to the fundamental elements of the Peter Pan story, while using their artistic license to take the story to new creative heights. The movie exists within a dreamlike fog, where the children and viewers are rarely certain what is real and what is imagined. The filmmakers packs the story full of many subjects touched upon in the novel including the loss of parents, the loss of children, and what it means to get old, while weaving in modern topics like environmental protection.
It’s also impossible to discuss this film without mentioning the cinematography. You can “nerd alert” me if you want, but it’s a beautiful fucking movie. Director Benh Zeitlin has previously shown both his eye for child talent and his eye for gorgeous cinematography in Beasts of the Southern Wild. I appreciate that this movie takes the story away from London and sets it in the south and the Caribbean, which you can tell Zeitlin has a love of and pride for (his operations are based out of New Orleans after all). If you completely ignored the story-telling, Wendy is still a two-hour piece of visual art.
WELL…can you tell I love this movie? I know I can be hyperbolic at times, but when I love something, I become its biggest hype-woman. Again, I’m sure there are people who will think it’s possibly too artsy or too boring and I completely respect that, after all, some movies that everyone seems to love (:cough A Star is Born cough:), I was not a big fan of. But I think most of you will find this a beautiful film to watch. But hey, if it’s not for you, you can literally never go wrong with watching Hook for the 587th time!
Rating: 9 out of 10 Claire Bears
If you like this movie, you should also see: Beasts of the Southern Wild, Winter’s Bone, The Tree of Life
Streaming: Available for rent or purchase only, I rented through Apple TV
With: Devin France, Yashua Mack, Gage Naquin, Gavin Naquin
Directed By: Benh Zeitlin