“I was always very interested in the hidden meanings of fairytales”: Livia de Paolis on The Lost Girls
The Lost Girls is the new film adaptation of Laurie Fox’s novel of the same name, which offers a contemporary reinterpretation of JM Barrie’s beloved classic Peter Pan through a female lens. Written and directed by Italian filmmaker Livia de Paolis, who also stars in the film, it follows four generations of Darling women who are in turn visited by the eternally youthful Peter Pan from Neverland. Taking the premise of the well-known story and examining it from a fresh perspective, it asks us to consider the darker undertones often overlooked in Disney incarnations of fairytales.
In particular, it takes as its jumping-off point a later added (and rather controversial) “afterthought” to Barrie’s book: in this brief paragraph, Wendy in fact does not keep her promise never to grow up and forgets how to fly. The Lost Girls explores what could happen next. It looks at whether these “visitations” from Peter are real or a case of an overactive imagination on the part of the women, the implications of a girl having to promise to “mother” the lost boys in a gender-stereotypical way, and how letting go of an imaginative world is part and parcel of becoming an adult. It further raises the fact of Peter Pan’s abandonment and the repression of this trauma that his refusal to grow up in Neverland represents.
This feminist retelling is certainly a fascinating way to revisit familiar material, and the movie is helped along by an impressively strong cast. Alongside de Paolis is the icon that is Vanessa Redgrave as the flighty elder Darling, Joely Richardson as her daughter and Wendy’s mother, and Ella-Rae Smith as our modern-day young Darling, plus an aptly lechy Hook, played by Iain Glen.
The Upcoming had the pleasure of chatting with the filmmaker Livia de Paolis over Zoom about writing, directing and starring in The Lost Girls, why she wanted to adapt Fox’s novel, assembling her incredible cast and the themes of coming-of-age, trauma and imagination versus reality it raises. We also discussed the importance of who gets to tell stories and authentically portraying the female experience on screen.
The Lost Girls is released nationwide on 17th June 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Lost Girls here: