Wendy: Review

Wendy: Review

This drama film follows Wendy (Devin France) and her two brothers Douglas (Gage Naquin) and James (Gavin Naquin). The trio have grown up in a rural town living above the diner where their mother Angie Darling (Shay Walker) works, which is located next to a railroad. The children spend their time watching the trains roll by their window day by day. As time passes, the kids desire to have adventures and resist the idea of growing up. One night, Wendy wakes up as a train passes by her window. She notices a boy riding on top of the train. Eventually, Wendy and her brothers decide to run away and get on the train. The boy introduces himself as Peter (Yashua Mack). Peter eventually takes the siblings to a mysterious island populated with more runaways. On this island, the kids never grow up and can do as they please as long as they believe in the “Mother” of the island. At first it seems like an idyllic fantasy, but it soon becomes apparent that the island and those who inhabit it are not entirely what they appear to be. Soon the kids are forced to face some harsh truths about life and growing up.

Director/co-writer Benh Zeitlin along with co-writer Eliza Zeitlin offer up a bold re-imagining of the Peter Pan mythos. While this film features homages to the established Peter Pan canon, such as the concept of never growing old and adversarial pirates, this film also follows its own path. Laced within this story are deep meditations on why kids feel the need to indulge in fantasy, the calling many feel to see the world beyond where they live and grow up, and how crucial it is to balance imagination, belief, and fantasy, with the true, tactile, and honest experiences of life. This emphasis on character and complex ideas not only offers a unique and fresh experience for viewers familiar with the Pan legend, but also allows this film to move away from some of the more problematic aspects of other Pan stories.

While the themes are explored in very interesting ways, there are large durations of the film that feature the characters roaming around in the various environments without much plot or dialogue occuring. These poetic stretches sometimes create the feeling that we are watching someone recount a dream. While that may be a deliberate choice by the filmmakers, as it fits in with the themes of the story, it has the effect of pulling the audience out of the narrative experience, which some may find jolting.

With regards to other technical aspects of the film, the cinematography by Sturla Brandth Grøvlen is a particular standout. Grøvlen keeps the camera close to the performers and often fills the frame with a lot of light and grain, which aids in creating the fantastical and somewhat nostalgic feel of the film. In addition, this photography highlights the beauty of the many landscapes featured. The close, intimate camera also helps heighten the tension during the more dramatic sections of the film. Similarly, the score by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin is at different times wistful, romantic, tense, and melancholic, perfectly accompanying the layered emotional aspects of the film. The performances by all the young actors are also very strong, particularly France and Mack, both of whom imbue their characters with a strong sense of maturity and intention, despite their age and the fantastical story.

Wendy is a film that boldly pursues its own vision for a Peter Pan story. Featuring thoughtful meditations on imagination, fantasy, belief, growing up, as well as beautiful cinematography and music pieces, fans of innovative dramas should seek this film out. Though some may find the surrealist aspects of the film distracting from the larger story.

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Trent loves watching and discussing films. Trent is a fan of character dramas and blockbusters. Some of his favorites include: The Breakfast Club, A Few Good Men and The Martian.


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