Review by Dan Skip Allen
Over the last decade or two, Hollywood has cranked out various takes on Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. Of course, Disney made these classic tales famous decades ago, but many have tried to do new versions of them. Tim Burton took his turn with Alice in Wonderland in 2010, and that got a sequel in 2016, Alice Through the Looking Glass. Recent adaptations of Peter Pan include one in 2003, Finding Neverland starring Johnny Depp in 2004, Pan starring Hugh Jackman in 2015, and Wendy earlier this year from director Benh Zeitlin. Come Away might be the most different take on these two children's tales yet.
A framing sequence introduces the viewers to adult Alice Littleton (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), who is narrating her and her family's story. The film is mostly about her and her brother but subplots about her parents are very intriguing and engaging as well. Rose Littleton (Angelina Jolie) is a good mother, but she doesn't have much of a life outside taking care of the house and kids. Jack Littleton (David Oyelowo) is a builder of miniature ships and models. This job can be a little tough to make an income on though. He gets himself into debt with his brother who loaned him most. These two have normal problems for adults bad then and today.
The Littleton children are oblivious to their parent's struggles and situations. Peter (Jordan A. Nash) and Alice (Kiera Chansa) are just like most kids there are. They are a mischievous and curious pair of kids, liking to roam the woods and play games and so forth with free rein to go anywhere and do anything they want. Their parents both encourage exploration and imagination for their kids. This where this realistic story of a struggling family turns onto a fairy tale.
The kids learn of their parent's problems and the filmmakers use these fairy tale stories as a way to get the kids involved with the parents and their problems. They mixed the stories together quite well. The intertwining of fairy tales and true-life drama was done successfully. It helped move the film along very speedily. These two kids were the heart and soul of the film. If they are not engaging and interesting the film could have fallen on its face. That's not the case though. The big-name stars like Michael Caine and the aforementioned were just there to support these two great young actors.
Brenda Chapman, the director, set the film in England in the 1800s. This allowed for a more innocent take of these characters. This is more of a prequel to these classic children's stories. They took some creative license with them, but the mixing of fictional and realistic was perfectly done. The acting by all was first-rate, including and especially the two lead children who played Peter and Alice. Without them and their performances, this film wouldn't work. This film was a fun new take on these eternal children's fairy tales.
Come Away screened at the Urbanworld Film Festival which ran September 23-27.
One of the writers from disappointment media worked on a film playing as part of the Dances with Films Festival, but they were not involved with the writing of this review.