In a time where many studios are rushing to remake some of the most classic stories of all time, it is no surprise that there are going to be ones for the iconic story Peter Pan, as originally told by J.M. Barrie. However, this latest attempt – simply titled Wendy – by Benh Zeitlin (who previously directed the Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild) may just be the most original one yet.
What is particularly striking about this adaptation by Zeitlin is the heart of the story, focusing on the importance of childhood. The audience can follow our lead character Wendy and a cast of young boys – including one named Peter – as they explore a mysterious island and learn that they can stay young forever. All the performances in the film are fantastic, and part of that comes from how organic they feel. The characters are children, and they are written as so, naïve and oblivious to the situations around them as they just run and have fun being young.
The technical elements within this film also help capture a warm feeling of capturing childhood and in telling this story. Wendy might just have the best score of the year as the music by Zeitlin and Dan Romer elevates everything that happens on screen, whether it is the action or the emotion within the narrative. Not only that, but the cinematographer Sturia Brandth Grøvlen did a fantastic job of creating atmosphere and capturing these gorgeous shots. In particular, the scenes with the train stand out in terms of composition and framing.
Unfortunately, not everything within the screenplay works for this film and it is a shame that it wasn’t as tight as it could have been. It became clear that Zeitlin was stuck between trying to fit as much of the Peter Pan story into this film, whilst also trying to tell its own story, and that leads to a screenplay that is messy and confusing at times. There are certain rules in the film that are established but are neglected throughout and certain plot points feel forced just to tell a more traditional version of the story. It also does lead to the jarring pacing throughout, with some moments feeling rushed and others dragging in this nearly two-hour runtime.
For some, the story does not work for them, and it can be clear why that is the case. However, if you can forgive the screenplay a little bit, the film is filled with so much heart and joy that it becomes infectiously captivating. It may not be a film that I rush to watch again anytime soon, but it is one that I thoroughly appreciate. Benh Zeitlin proves again why he is perhaps one of the most exciting and original filmmakers working to this day, and I cannot wait to see what he makes next.
Wendy is in cinemas August 13.