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Wendy: As Beautiful a Mess Can Be (Review)

Wendy: As Beautiful a Mess Can Be (Review)

Kai Coulstock

Wendy is not just an explosive celebration of childhood adventure and rediscovering joy as an adult, but of the planet Earth itself. 



If, for some entirely bizarre reason, I was tasked with profiling the entire world into two distinct groups, I may be struck with the idea of separating all human existence as such: those who wish to become adults, and those who wish to stay forever as children. When it then eventually came to grouping myself, I’m quite certain I’d be placed in the latter group. I was never particularly excited about the ugly inevitableness of adulthood, even if some of those around me were. I guess some people just like the sound of filling out paperwork, paying taxes, and working all day. 

My aversion to becoming an adult makes a certain Peter Pan a bit of an idol of mine. I’m sure you’re familiar with the lad, but in case you aren’t, he’s a boy that will forever stay a boy, having adventures and making friends from dawn until dusk, all day, everyday. Oh, and he can fly. But besides that, the story of Peter Pan ultimately caters to both groups. It’s not just about how never growing up would be a great adventure, it’s also about how becoming an adult may not be the horrid transformation it seems. In the century that has passed since the inception of Peter Pan (and fellow characters, Wendy Darling, Captain Hook, and the Lost Boys), their story has been endlessly adapted, retold, remade, and altered. From the stage play there is now; animated movies, TV shows, books, live-action movies, paintings, roller-coasters, video games, music, and likely a whole bunch of other stuff.

So, with all this in mind, I think we could probably agree that, in the year 2020, retelling the Peter Pan story in movie form, whilst staying true to the sentiments of the original, and creating something new, is going to be rather difficult. This is where Benh Zeitlin’s Wendy enters stage right, head held high, and already singing. Because despite the odds, Wendy is Peter Pan with original and exciting elements. Of course, this doesn’t mean the movie is perfect. In my opinion, it’s far from it. The narrative has moments of imbalance where you’re not sure if it’s about to tumble to the end, or simply topple over motionless. There’s a lot of metaphor and allegory that taken literally only seems to add absurdity to a tale already rather far-fetched, and when taken philosophically diverts attention from the story of Ms. Darling, and twists into something a little less expected. 

loud and clear reviews wendy 2020 film
Devin France and Yashua Mack in the film WENDY. (Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)

However, despite the issues some may have with the narrative of Wendy, what with the randomly-occurring humming, and allusions to Mother Earth as a character, it’s hard to argue that everything else in this movie isn’t brilliant. There are a multitude of shots and scenes in Wendy that once given some thought are truly mind-boggling, the whole thing looks beautiful from start to finish and everything comes across with total commitment; the child actors, the production design, the music (to name a few of the aspects) are all going full steam, as it were. 

In reality, though, or at least in my perception of reality, none of the usual film-related hogwash applies to Wendy. I could keep listing departments and saying how everyone within those areas did a great job, I could continue to reiterate criticisms others may have with the movie, or keep writing about Peter Pan and how Wendy simply shouldn’t be possible anymore. But I don’t think that would accurately reflect my feelings on the movie, or rather the feelings emanating from it. Wendy doesn’t hold your hand and take time to explain what’s happening on screen: we experience the movie in much the same way the characters do, and regardless of all the people behind the camera Wendy truly is something built to be felt, rather than to be simply seen. I think the less you think critically about the movie, the more likely you’re going to enjoy it, and I also think that any imperfections Wendy may have work in its favour. The greatest movies of all time are the imperfect ones. The movies that make mistakes and have faults rise above the rest because those are the ones oozing with humanity, and that’s exactly the case with Wendy, it’s a story about people, for people. It’s as simple as that. 

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I might add that this is the first movie that’s ever genuinely made me cry, and I haven’t been able to think about it objectively since watching it. It’s quite a new feeling for me, and whether you’ve felt like this before, or if you’re reading this and thinking “what the hell is he on about?” I recommend Wendy regardless, because I’m confident you haven’t seen Peter Pan and Neverland like this before. And if you’ve never before acquainted yourself with Master Pan, whether you be of adulthood or childhood, this is a great opportunity to do so, for let’s face it – celebrating a group of characters as they attempt to defy time itself will always be a universally glorious event. 


Wendy: Trailer (Searchlight Pictures)

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