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Come Away – Movie Review

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Come Away – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland have become fully ingrained in peoples’ memories for several decades now, further helped by the various film adaptations. Both of them feature stories of young people traveling to magical worlds and it’s understandable why these stories have resonated with many. With Come Away, director Brenda Chapman and screenwriter Marissa Kate Goodhill have crafted a clever spin on those timeless tales that also explores grief. It’s a family film that isn’t afraid of tackling difficult subjects and it handles those topics well. It’s an intriguing origin story that is also helped by its diverse cast of talented actors.

It’s easy to interpret Come Away as a film about the need to escape into fantasy when life gets too tough and it doesn’t take long to sympathise with the principal characters. There are multiple references to Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland and they fit seamlessly with the movie’s overall tone. It’s fun to spot these, but they serve another purpose beyond showing the imaginations of Peter and Alice. Jordan A. Nash and Keira Chansa successfully embody the roles and show them growing a lot as they deal with the death of their older brother. The parents, played by David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie, also manage to show how they cope in their own ways.

Brenda Chapman is careful not to go overly cutesy with the fantasy elements. In her past work for Disney and DreamWorks Animation, she displayed an ability at depicting drama in a world where unreal events occur and that continues here with Come Away. The theme of death hangs over the entire film, along with the troubles caused by the tragedy that rocks this family. The filmmakers know when to develop the characters and when to jump into the more fantastical elements. There are additional themes explored through the father’s gambling addiction and the grandmother’s frequent attempts to turn Alice into a “proper lady” and the film properly explores the effect these events have on them.

Even the element of a multiracial family living in England in the late 19th /early 20th century is touched upon. Chapman and Goodhill are able to combine these themes without the story feeling too jumbled. From a production standpoint, Chapman continues to prove herself a director with a real visual eye. Most of the film is spent inside the family’s house and surrounding area and it’s all nicely realised. When she takes us to the big city, there’s a foreboding feeling when we see the foggy and crowded streets. Meanwhile, John Debney composes a score with the required magical quality.

Come Away is a worthwhile addition to the mythos of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland with an understanding of why these stories continue to appeal and inspire so many. The film also proves how much you can shape these iconic creations to explore other subject matter. Chapman makes sure we immediately care about and sympathise with the Littleton family and the troubles they face. The filmmakers craft a compelling story that tackles serious subject matters and the fantastical elements don’t feel out of place. They actually enhance the story and allow for many twists and turns within the narrative. The film has a tricky juggling act and Chapman and Goodhill handle these with ease.

Stefan Ellison

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