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This film tells the story of J M Barrie, his friendship with the Llewellyn-Davies family, and how it inspired him to write his most famous work, Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

At the beginning of the film, Barrie is a playwright whose last play flopped badly with audiences, and he needs a hit.  Dustin Hoffman plays Charles Frohman, a Theatre Manager and friend, who indulges Barrie by staging his works, but despairs of him ever writing anything successful again.

Caught in an increasingly distant marriage, Barrie has a chance meeting with a the widow Sylvia Llewellyn-Davies and her four sons in the park, and becomes close to the family.  He especially feels an affinity with one of her sons Peter, who has taken the death of his father especially hard.  He starts work on his new play, drawing upon his time spent with the children, but more tragedy is just around the corner…

I thought this was a beautiful film.  Johnny Depp, as always, was simply wonderful, and his Scottish accent was pretty much perfect (had I not known otherwise, I would have believed that he was Scottish in real life).  Kate Winslett is also perfectly cast as Mrs Llewellyn-Davies, and Dustin Hoffman, Julie Christie (as Sylvia’s mother, who disapproves of the friendship between her daughter and Barrie) and Radha Mitchell (as Barrie’s wife Mary who is unhappy in her marriage and does not like her husband’s budding friendship with the LLewellyn-Davies family) provide very strong support.

I also loved the way that many scenes were shown as Barrie imagined them in his mind’s eye.  For instance when he was playing at pirates with the children (giving Depp chance to use his Captain Sparrow accent!), the scene was shown as onboard an actual pirate ship, and when Barrie was dancing with his pet dog and pretending it was a bear, we actually see him dancing with a bear – because that it is how he imagines it to be.

The story does employ some poetic licence; although here, Sylvia is shown as already a widow when she first meets Barrie, in real life her husband was alive for much of their friendship (and allegedly unhappy about Barrie’s presence in his family’s life).  Also, there were five Llewellyn-Davies children, not four as depicted in the film, although I have no idea why this change was made.  However, this is not supposed to be a documentary, and certainly did not detract from my enjoyment of the film.

Beautifully shot, beautifully acted, and a wonderful story – I would definitely highly recommend this movie.  But make sure you have a box of tissues nearby – it made me sob!

Year of release: 2004

Director: Marc Foster

Writers: Allan Knee (play), David Magee

Main cast: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslett, Julie Christie, Dustin Hoffman, Freddie Highmore, Radha Mitchell

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