In this imaginative origin story of two of the most beloved characters in literature – Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland – eight-year-old Alice (Keira Chansa), her mischievous brother Peter (Jordan A. Nash) and their brilliant older sibling David (Reece Yates) let their imaginations run wild one blissful summer in the English countryside. Encouraged by their parents Jack and Rose (David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie), the kids’ make-believe tea parties, sword fights and pirate ship adventures come to an abrupt end when tragedy strikes.
Peter, eager to prove himself a hero to his grief-stricken and financially-struggling parents, journeys with Alice to London, where they try to sell a treasured heirloom to the sinister pawnshop owner known as C.J. (David Gyasi). Returning home, Alice seeks temporary refuge in a wondrous rabbit hole while Peter permanently escapes reality by entering a magical realm as leader of the “Lost Boys.”
Retellings of classic children’s tales are far from new. Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan are among the most popular, and often remade of those stories. Some take on a Tim Burton twist, and others a more Disney friendly appeal. In more recent years, the tales have been woven into real life to help show how perhaps some of the lore was born of real-life tragedy and imagination.
Come Away explores the latter as we following a family living on the outskirts of London. Jack (Oyelowo) and Rose (Jolie) are the parents of 3 children. The eldest is David who is about to embark on a journey to a prestigious school, and in turn, leaving his siblings behind. The daughter named Alice who enjoys tea parties and the youngest and most imaginative of the 3, Peter.
As one might expect, tragedy strikes early and the movie focuses on how the family handles the grieve of losing a loved one and how those real-world events mix with the imagination of a child coping with these events. Our title characters in these stories are of course Peter and Alice.
As you might have guessed Alice becomes the little girl who went to Wonderland, and Peter becomes Pan and sails away to Neverland. The film tries desperately to weave all of the characters from both worlds into their real-life interactions. It works only about half the time really well. The rest of the time it’s so forced that you find yourself confused (Hook comes to mind, as well as the Queen from Wonderland).
The lead cast which, outside of Jolie and Oyelowo, includes the likes of Michael Caine, Anna Chancellor, and Clarke Peters feels wasted in this film. The true stars are Keira Chansa (Alice) and Jordan Nash (Peter). It became clear early on that they were simply enjoying themselves. Being able to act out their imagination on screen. But more than that, they were also emotionally the most convincing of the cast.
Come Away is a family-friendly escape. The film does a decent job of reminding us that children’s imagination can come out of the simplest of places. And that escaping into an imaginary world is a way of couping with the worst the world had to offer. So while we all grow up, unlike Peter Pan, we should not forget the worlds we spent our childhoods seeking refuge in.
Come Away is in theatres and at home on demand Nov 13th.