I’m conflicted about Come Away. It presents an intriguing concept and has some visual appeal and a solid cast, but I just don’t think we need another spin on one classic, let alone two, that has already been imagined and reimagined a gazillion times over the years. Plus, it’s tinged with such sadness throughout that I simply felt bummed out watching. Magical escapism as a survival mechanism failed to lift my spirits.
The PG film centers around two characters familiar from children’s literature – Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. Only in this particular origin story, Peter and Alice are siblings, struggling to escape – and ease – their parents’ grief after their brilliant older brother David dies in a freak accident. The tragedy completely upends the family’s blissful life in the English countryside – replete with tea parties, sword fights, pirate ships, white rabbits, a looking glass, etc. Ring any bells, Tinker?
Reeling from their loss, Mom (Angelina Jolie) withdraws into the bottle, and Dad (David Oyelowo) revisits his dangerous past as a gambling man, leaving the kids – who are also grieving – to largely fend for themselves. Compound that with Peter’s secret feelings of guilt over his bother’s death, and you’ve got a recipe for deep psychological trauma. Ever the mischievous one however, Peter (Jordan A. Nash) concocts a plan to fix things for his distraught and financially-strapped parents. He and Alice (Keira Chansa) venture off to London to try and sell a treasured heirloom to a sinister pawnshop owner (David Gyasi) for a bucket of coin. But of course, things don’t go quite according to plan.
Upon their return home, Alice seeks temporary refuge down a wondrous rabbit hole, while Peter permanently escapes reality by entering a magical realm as leader of the “Lost Boys of the Wild” Would J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll approve of director Brenda Chapman’s (Brave, The Prince of Egypt, The Lion King) take on the worlds they created? Not a clue.
As for me, the line between reality and fantasy got so blurry near the end that I wasn’t entirely sure who, if anyone, lives happily ever after. In England, Neverland, Wonderland, or wherever.
Come Away is in theaters and Premium Video On Demand November 13.