Visually stunning, but narratively confused. From Benh Zeitlin, the writer-director of the Beasts of the Southern Wild, comes Wendy, a reimagining of Wendy from the J.M. Barrie classic Peter Pan. While this film does touch on and integrate the beloved themes of the story of the boy who wouldn’t grow up, the themes lack consistency because the plot is all over the place. Clearly this film is a passion project of Zeitlin’s that undoubtedly contains ample meaning behind every scene; unfortunately, that meaning and purpose are largely lost upon the audience due to the complete chaos that unfolds from beginning to end, a chaos for which you will likely need a dramamine. You still get the exploration of the idea of neverending childhood, but the plot and dialogue posit far too many questions that seldom get answered through diegetic exposition. The references to the Peter Pan, with which we are far more familiar, will bring a smile to your face and serve as motivation to keep going on this journey, but those are few and far between. And when we do get a familiar reference, it’s completely changed. For example, “when the first child laughed for the very first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and that was the beginning of Mother.” No, you didn’t misread that quote from the movie, instead of the laugh being the origin of faeries, it is the origin of the protector of the unnamed island that serves as our Never Neverland. In some ways, Mother is a Tinkerbell like character, but in the form of a giant fish-like creature. Ultimately, this film appears to be confused as to what it wants to be. A lot of heart-felt ideas, but poorly executed.
Just who is the audience of this film? It’s too edgy for kids but not edgy enough for adults; furthermore, the allegorical themes are difficult for adults to understand, let alone children. Adults will be able to identify the commentary on what’s lost and gained on the journey from child to adult, but everything else is lost in the wandering plot and story. So what does work? The cinematography and score are both outstanding! Truly this is a beautiful film that contains thoughtful artistic elements that will capture your imagination–but then give it nothing to do. In terms of the child actors, every performance is great! I was thoroughly impressed with the level of actor talent across the board. In particularly, our two lead characters Wendy (Devin France) and Peter Yashua Mack) deliver excellent performances. One thing is for sure, there is a lot for audiences to unpack here, but this reimagining of Wendy and Peter Pan will likely leave most audiences unsatisfied and disappointed.
Ryan teaches screenwriting at the University of Tampa. If you like this article, check out the others and FOLLOW this blog! Interested in Ryan making a guest appearance on your podcast or contributing to your website? Send him a DM on Twitter or email him at RLTerry1@gmail.com! If you’re ever in the Tampa area, feel free to catch a movie with him!