Director Ben Zeitlin (“Wild South Animals”) lends a melancholy, even cruel, dimension to James Matthew Barry’s classic story, in a film that wonders about the meaning of adolescence and awareness of loss and death. It does not always succeed, but the result is not as routine and commercialized as previous adaptations, and is certainly commendable.
This is a very free adaptation of “Peter Pan,” which takes some of the main characters from the story and places them on a volcanic island that they reach from a Louisiana countryside via a journey train. Wendy Darling (Devin France) and her twin brothers, James and Doug, are the children of a single mother working in a musty local diner. The only attraction in the place where the power of God is the train passing by, accompanied by the cheers of a mysterious child.passenger. One night they respond to his calls and hop on the train, from where they land on the magical island (the film was shot on the Caribbean island of Montserrat), where apparently the gang of lost children surrounding Peter Pan – he is the same dreaded Caribbean boy, who in the film is named only Peter.
The character of Peter is played by 10.year.old Salvation Mack (six years old at the time of filming), located by Zeitlin on the island of Antigua, a member of an isolated community of the Rastafari – devout Christians who see the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie as the second incarnation of Jesus on earth. It seems to me that it would not be a mistake to point out that he is the first black child ever to play the character of the child who does not want to grow up, designed in the books of J.M. Barry. In the most basic childhood fantasies.
Although “Wendy” clings to the thematic aspect of the fear of adolescence and old age that underlies Peter Pan’s story, the tone and point of reference are different from previous adaptations, most notably the 1953 Disney animated film and Steven Spielberg’s underrated “Hawk” (1991). , In which Robin Williams played the older Peter Pan, who never returned to the country in order to confront once and for all his bitter rival in the title, who kidnapped his children. Other adaptations such as “Peter Pan” (2003) and “Penn” (2015) have retained conventional fidelity to the literary source, and their value is negligible.
But “Wendy,” as its name implies, centers on the character of a girl, the daughter of a single mother, who through Peter and the Lost Children is exposed to the dark side of the adult world. On the magical island she meets a community of elderly people living in a ruined town, probably following a volcanic eruption – children who have lost their childish faith in a miraculous and glorious creature known as “Mother”. This connection to an archaic mother who preserves eternal childhood makes motherhood one of the film’s central themes. This is in contrast to the emphasis on the Oedipal dimension present in other adaptations of the story, and the preoccupation with the masculine and paternal defect that appears in Spielberg’s film. Hawk, therefore, does not serve here as a terrifying father figure against whom Peter Pan fights. Zeitlin’s interpretation, without revealing, is more rooted in the trauma experienced on the island.
“Wild South Animals” placed Zeitlin as the great white hope of American cinema. The film and its creator even garnered Oscar nominations, its black star Kwanjani Wallis became the youngest actress to ever be nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actress category, and its revenue (about $ 21 million) was ten times its cost. His current film, however, has left extremely cool reactions and suffered economic failure. Some would say that this is an obvious disappointment after that (definitely excessive) enthusiasm, but Zeitlin should be appreciated for choosing to stay true to his vision instead of assimilating into the Hollywood system.
Zeitlin, who co.wrote the script with his sister Eliza (both avid Peter Pan fans), gives the story a melancholy, even cruel, dimension. The film features a scene of amputation that identifies aging as a dangerous disease, Peter himself is portrayed as a cult leader whose mischief even has a destructive dimension, and although we know almost nothing about his past – few dialogues as well as an old photograph reveal a sad family background. A Land Never, the same volcanic island, is also a site of death, and the longing for the missing motherly love is present almost throughout the film and shapes the character of Peter. Yes, this is a film that wonders about the meaning of adolescence and awareness of loss and death – and it does so through the character of Wendy who is no longer a secondary presence in the story of the adventure of the flying boy, but represents the voice of mature, sober reason.
“Wendy” is definitely no longer Peter Pan for kids. Here and there it even has something reminiscent of William Golding’s dystopian allegory, “Beelzebub,” and Zeitlin’s attempt to shape a multicultural fantasy that focuses on the darker aspects of the story is certainly commendable. It does not always succeed – mainly because the film requires poetic narration from Wendy’s mouth that gives it a beautified sentimental dimension (an element that also clouded his previous film), and because the characters of The Lost Children remain quite erased. But Zeitlin goes his own way here, and that’s what matters, and his dialogue with the world of children on the verge of adolescence is certainly unconventional and commercialized.