by Okema Gunn, Contributing Writer
Come Away is a 2020 fantasy drama film based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. The screenplay was written by Marissa Kate Goodhill and directed by Brenda Chapman (Brave). Come Away was produced by Leesa Kahn, Andrea Keir, David Oyelowo, and James Spring. This unique tale merges two of the most classic and icon fairytales of all time.
In the film, three young Darling children David, Peter, and Alice, have vivid imaginations. They are torn between growing up and childhood. The eldest son David dies suddenly, which pulls the whole family apart and propels them on a peculiar and dangerous trajectory. The mother of the three children, Rose Darling (Angelina Jolie), is very caring with her children, especially Alice, who she introduces to Tinker Bell and the story of the Fairies. The patriarch, Jack Darling (David Oyelowo), is a craftsman who makes ships for a living. The Darlings are a bi-racial family that lives in a tiny cottage on the outskirts of town. Jack vows to stop gambling even though his addiction grows stronger. Heartbroken by the loss of his son David, he continues to gamble. Jack later reunites with some unsavory characters who emerge in the tale as The Mad Hatter and Captain Hook. Rose eventually succumbs to the bottle of spirits. Young Alice sees the alcohol bottle as an escape and imagines it says, “Drink Me.”
Peter and Alice creep into town to try to solve the money problem and repay their father’s debt. Here they both meet the ‘Lost Boys,’ unlawful characters, and are exposed to the underbelly of society.
In the film, Aunt Eleanor makes a statement to Alice about her father, Jack, and his class/race. Eleanor wants to raise Alice like a proper lady in society and suggests that she come and stay with her. She states, “Just because your father is lower class doesn’t mean you have to be too. We’ll make a lady out of you yet.” Come Away addresses some hard realities of class/race discrimination even in this fairytale mode.
Although very lengthy, the film follows along the path intertwining between reality and fantasy. Throughout the film, the audience can see pivotal points where both stories blended and then diverged. In the end, more things made sense, but it took a while to get there. This film appears to have taken place in the 19th century and felt a little like Oliver Twist in the city at times. The film pays incredible attention to detail with hair, makeup, and clothing. The tone of the film was somber at times and whimsical at others. Scoring by John Debney helps the story move along. The landscape made the tale more believable. The production design by Luciana Arrighi, set decoration with Liz Ainley and Kate Sullivan, and costume design by Louise St. Louise Stjernsward was delightful. The story dipped in and out of reality, which reminds audiences of Christopher Robin (2018). I wanted to see more of the whimsey than reality!
Casting by Lillie Jeffrey and Reg Poerscout Egerton makes the film unique. David Oyelowo explains that “when he was brought in to produce the story, the story was written, and few changes were made to the script regarding emphasis on class.” Oyelowo spoke about how fortunate he was to be involved with a diverse and talented cast and becoming connected with the merging of these two magical stories.
Come Away makes a brave attempt at merging these classics. At times, the film needed a little more magic and pixie dust to bring the story full circle. Something was missing, but it does take audiences back to their childhood days of pirates, pixies, and magical escapes. There were also some disturbing and shocking truths in the film, such as the adults’ abusive habits and how to deal with loss, grief, and coping. Come Away tries its best to be anchored while conquering the inclusivity of plot and themes of dramatic fantasy.
Contributing Writer Okema Gunn is a filmmaker and educator. Find her on social media @7gunnmedia.