Wednesday, October 10, 2007

NEVERWAS: An Adult 'Terabithia'

NEVERWAS (drama)

Cast: Aaron Eckhart, Ian McKellen, Brittany Murphy, William Hurt, Nick Nolte & Alan Cumming
Director: Joshua Michael Stern
Time: 108 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)

(Pic: Eckhart & McKellen)
If you have never heard of "Neverwas" before, it is because this 2005 movie never was released in cinemas in the US or other major countries despite an accomplished cast. The movie was shown at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival and later released on DVD. If you are wondering why the producers got 'cold feet' about the box-office potential of the movie, it could be due to the whimsical and personal nature of its plot - a sort of adult version of "The Bridge To Terabithia" - sans the imaginary CGI monsters.
Still, "Neverwas" has a few pluses going for it - an impressive cast putting up first class performances, the charm of its small town location, and some twists and surprises. These are actually more than what many so-called blockbusters of today have to offer...

WHAT'S IT ABOUT? The movie opens with Dr Zachary Riley (Aaron Eckhart) reporting for duty at Millwood Psychiatric Hospital - the very institution where his late father, T.L. Pierson (Nick Nolte) was treated before he committed suicide. Zachary's official reason for coming to Millwood - instead of remaining at Cornell University - is to provide better care for Milwood's patients. His real reason, however, is to investigate his father's death.
Zachary's dad, we soon learn, was the author of the famous children's book, 'Neverwas', in which young Zachary was featured as the hero of its imaginary kingdom. Further confirmation of his role comes from the schizophrenic Gabriel Finch (Ian McKellen), a reclusive patient who seems to respond only to Zachary. Gabriel, who imagines himself as the king of 'Neverwas', looks upon Zachary as his saviour! Now, is Gabriel for real, or is he really the resident Mad Hatter of Millwood?

HIGHS & LOWS: Writer-director Joshua Michael Stern imbues the movie with a sombre and disturbing tone, providing bits and pieces of the narrative puzzle just to keep up our curiosity. Having immersed himself in his quest, Zachary is forced to face the issues that he has been avoiding for years. These include memories of a late night trip into the woods - and confronting his alcoholic mother (played with panache by Jessica Lange). Even the delight of starting a romance with his old friend Ally (Brittany Murphy) is fraught with pain and suspicions of betrayal.
Are we watching Zachary's return to his childhood nightmare - or is there really some light at the end of the tunnel? As the pieces slowly fall into place, and fantasy melds with reality, we discover that "Neverwas" is a simple and sometimes touching story about a father's love and hopes for his son.And yes, it is also about a man's version of reality - the one that allows him to see himself in his own light.

THE LOWDOWN: For those who like mind games and fantasy. (Showing at Cathay Damansara PictureHouse)


Post a Comment

<< Home