Troubling the boundaries of real and imaginary to bring two children’s classics – JM Barrie’s Peter Pan and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – into dialogue, this live-action debut from director Brenda Chapman (The Prince of Egypt, Brave) offers immaculate casting and an intriguing premise. Come Away invites its audience into the origins of both Peter and Alice, reimagined as brother and sister, caught between the tranquil security of childhood and the beginnings of the grown-up world.
The film is bolstered by refined and thoughtful performances from both Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo (the latter also carrying a production credit), and truly remarkable acting from the three younger stars, Keira Chansa (Alice), Jordan A Nash (Peter) and Reece Yates as their ill-fated older brother, David. Nonetheless, Come Away suffers from a stilted script and disjointed plot, which severely limit its ability to carry the audience off, as the title suggests it might. While the worries afflicting the adults and children alike are all too real, the social and historical set-up is prohibitively vague, even for a venture into the world of fantasy. Any real escape is punctuated by a few too many question marks.
Despite this, the gestures towards the fictional worlds of Carroll and Barrie are enriching, offering an alternative perspective on the role and origin of fantasy. And, in its snapshot of familial relationships, Come Away bears a number of resonant moments: Oyelowo’s portrayal of a family patriarch, and his scenes with the Mad Hatter (Clarke Peters – here playing the father of Oyelowo’s character), are especially touching, as is Anna Chancellor’s menacing, rich aunt Eleanor (a classic trope of the genre, reimagined with new edge). Despite some missteps, the film arrives at a neat and transformative close; it’s just a shame that such a focused effort is required from the audience to catch up with its arrival.
Come Away is released nationwide on 4th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for Come Away here: