18th December 2020 (UK)
When their eldest brother dies, Peter and Alice seek to save their parents from despair until they are forced to choose between home and imagination, setting the stage for their iconic journeys into Wonderland and Neverland.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Carter Thomas, Ava Fillery
There was a one word burning question which never extinguished as I watched Come Away – why?
Was yet another ‘re-imagining’ of the done-to-death Intellectual Properties of Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan really necessary? The latter especially getting extra attention with the likes of 2015’s Pan, a 2003 entry starring Jeremy Sumpter, 2004’s semi-biographical Finding Neverland, an additional new take in 2020’s Wendy and a live-action instalment on the way from Disney. Alice, on the other hand, got the big-budget treatment from Tim Burton in 2010 with a subsequent sequel six years later. After watching, I would say no. But Come Away is not without its merits, most of which are removed from the two famous characters which are likely to have drawn people into watching in the first place.
Siblings Alice (Keira Chansa), Peter (Jordan Nash) and David Littleton (Reece Yates) love to use their imaginations. Their parents, Rose (Angelina Jolie; Maleficent) and Jack (David Oyelowo; Selma), encourage them to do so. Unlike their Aunt Eleanor (Anna Chancellor; This Beautiful Fantastic, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) who believes girls should not concern themselves with such nonsense, instead needing to learn how to be lady-like. We join the little Littleton’s one fateful summer when tragedy strikes as David drowns while playing pirates with Peter. As only they know how, the two distraught children escape from reality in their own world’s of make-believe: Alice into Wonderland and Peter becoming Pan in Neverland.
Beginning spryly and energetically with sequences of the three kids playing together as their minds turn sticks into swords and spears, it’s a promising opening. But the vital turning point towards the end of the first act taints the mood for the rest of the picture, making it a somewhat morbid tale. For this reason, I’m not entirely sure who Come Away is aiming for. With its solemn tone which eventually turns rather sinister with grown men chasing children with knives and back alley threats from gangsters, it’s too downbeat for younger audiences.
It’s short on action too, with exaggerated and whimsical music cues left to pick up the work when there’s very little actually happening on screen. Anyone hoping to escape to the magical lands of Wonder and Never will be disappointed. There’s the odd flourish of a carving coming to life or as I mentioned earlier an item ‘transforming’ into what the kids think they’re playing with, but I found the final product to be more about grief through a child’s eyes and the ways they process it. Yes, there are visuals and imagery consistent with both stories, but perhaps Come Away would have been better received if it had magicked up its own universe for the children rather than needlessly piggybacking on well-established ones.
Everyone involved in telling the story is enthusiastically committed though. Keira Chansa and Jordan Nash look like they’re having worlds of fun playing pretend as Alice and Peter respectively. A-lister Angelina Jolie sprinkles her star power as the children’s mother Rose. Turning the English accent up to a level which makes Queen Elizabeth sound scouse, Jolie nonetheless convinces as the mourning mum, over time becoming an alcoholic recluse dressed in all black. David Oyelowo impresses as struggling Jack, a model ship building gambler with hefty debts to pay. Clarke Peters goes full panto as a pawn shop owner who doubles as the inspiration for The Mad Hatter, while David Gyasi is suitably menacing as CJ, the man Jack is indebted to. Anna Chancellor arrives with her airs and graces as Aunt Eleanor, the broom up the backside relative who looks down her nose at the Littletons but may have a confused Alice’s ear. Michael Caine shows up for a quick minute and must have a contract clause now which states he must be eating at the same time as delivering lines. He’s sporting a tremendously twirly ‘tash here too which to gaze upon is worth the price of a ticket.
Come Away is a fantasy without any memorable magic. It’s a drama with minimal dramatics. It’s admirable in its intentions, yet utterly unnecessary in its existence. Regardless, if you’ve got even the smallest inkling of interest in either Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland and have an open mind to take this for what it is – a non-canon (I hope!) revisionist telling of how these two beloved figures came to be, then thanks to its strong star power, Come Away is a trip worth taking.
Come Away is in UK Cinemas and Digital Platforms from 18th December 2020 through Signature Entertainment.
Enthusiastic performances from all
There's a solid story here, buried like hidden treasure that unfortunately remains below visibility
Michael Caine's moustache
Not really an origin story that needed telling or merging
Exceptionally morbid for younger viewers
Don't see much of an interpretation of either Land