Come Away (2020)
Directed by: Brenda Chapman
Written by: Marissa Kate Goodhill
Starring: David Oyelowo, Anna Chancellor, Clarke Peters, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Caine, David Gyasi, Derek Jacobi, and Angelina Jolie
I’ve reviewed my fair share of good films, and my fair share of bad films. The films that are most difficult for me to review, however, are the ones which do not stir any sort of passionate feelings from me whatsoever. These are films that merely occupy space on one’s streaming queue, probably sandwiched between more interesting works.
Come Away is one such film. It’s directed competently by Brenda Chapman (Brave) and features fair performances from its child actors as well as from more noted performers such as David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie. It also earns progressive plaudits for using largely actors of color for its main cast. Its greatest asset, though, is in its visuals. The sets are beautiful to look at, and are helped in no small part by its luscious cinematography.
Which is why it’s unfortunate the film is so dull and dreary to watch. This dreariness comes from its tonal mess of a story, which purports to be a retelling of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland as childhood siblings. A fanciful enough premise, but the film insists on telling this tale in the grimmest way possible. For theirs is a story that involves the death of a sibling, gambling addiction, debts, and alcoholism, all material too heady for what is to be a children’s fantasy film. No fairytale is complete without at least a hint of darkness, but here the darkness envelops the overall story, and leaves a bitter taste in one’s mouth afterward.
As a story for adults, the film doesn’t fare much better. The premise, that we develop stories to help us cope with a dark world around us, is a sound one. But its depiction of its fantasy world is too half-baked to give its premise any thematic potency. There are some interesting visuals, yes, like seeing play fighting with sticks that transform into swords, but otherwise, the fantasy worlds are too plain to be fanciful. We are obviously meant to feel a sense of childhood nostalgia in these imagination sequences, but all I could feel was that both Peter and Alice’s imaginations were severely lacking.
Perhaps a longer incubation period could have made Come Away a more moving or thoughtful film. As it stands, the film we’re left with is too dark for children, and too befuddling for adults, making it a film with no real audience at all.