Cover Art and Menu: 4/10
A poopy cover isn’t a good start, but that’s how it is sometimes. The faces of the leading characters are somewhat contorted into strange expressions, maybe to look like they are in a moment of wonderment or joy, but it doesn’t work for me. Not to mention that Brittany Murphy isn’t that big of a deal in the movie, so her face in the middle is a strange choice.
The Movie: 6/10
Neverwas is a great title. I imagined great lands of fantasy mixed with that certain touch of reality making a story enchanting and somewhat uplifting. They didn’t hit that mark, unfortunately. This is a story of a man who comes back to a clinic for mental illness to try and resolve some issues he has with his father’s suicide many years ago. I have to say that Aaron Eckhart does a fine job in this film. I haven’t ever been much of a fan, but when I saw him in Thank You For Smoking I was turned around a bit, and now I’m looking forward to the next project from him.
That being said, his character is dropped into a story that sometimes lead me down one a road to movie magic, thinking it was going to be fantastic and amazing and all that, but then dropped me off at the corner of “Huh?” and “What?”.
I like the premise, he’s trying to understand his father’s mental illness and find a way to forgive himself because of his own misplaced guilt, fair enough. The problem is that it’s mixed in with a script that promises something more. His father wrote a book about Neverwas, a fabled land where Zach (Eckhart) was the hero who had great adventures and saved the king and the whole kingdom.
In the clinic Zack meets Gabriel who begins to hint that the kingdom is real, that he is the king and Zach has come to free him so he can go back to Neverwas to defend his castle in the woods.
Zach is reasonable man so he only sees the psychology of Gabriel’s telling of tales. Then he meets the chick with all the right elements to pull the story together. She’s a childhood friend who has always loved the book and has all the right answers and explanations for what’s happening once the line between reality and fantasy begin to get blurred.
They are too blurred for me to be honest. I won’t expand on the whole story just because I want you to experience it without me telling you Zach’s fate and the fate of Neverwas. What I will say is Eckhart and Ian McKellen are both really good. I was impressed with the quality of both of their performances, along with the style of most of the movie, high marks for looking good. Even if there are a few too many overly dramatic shots of sunlight beaming through windows and trees, and there is a lot of warm glowing going on, but other than that it looks good.
The story drives a little too close to the dark side (suicide, childhood guilt, mental illness, etc.) without taking us there all the way and then pulling back with the ever present promise that the ramblings of a mentally ill patient are not a creation of his mind but real. I want it to be either a totally dark exploration of the mind of a person with mental illness, or totally flip it and be an uplifting story of breaking free of the shackles of reality to find a place beyond what we see….but it kind of hovers on the yellow line in the middle of the road and never satisfied me on either account.
I appreciate the movie. I liked it. I could use less Murphy and more Nolte (plays the mentally ill writer father who committed suicide). The music is lovely, but the scenes don’t always live up to the enchantment of the piano score that plays most of the time.
So, what am I saying? It’s good, some parts are brilliant, like Nolte’s parts and McKellen, and even Eckhart, dare I say. I even bumped up the score based solely on them and their individual performances which I enjoyed very very much. On the other hand, I felt a bit like I got dropped off at the wrong bus stop and never got total satisfaction for some unexplainable reason.
I would rent Neverwas, no hesitation. It’s a good movie with just that touch of something missing, and a touch of Brittany Murphy that could be removed for my taste. It’s not a purchasable DVD for me. No extras and the movie isn’t a classic or collectable, unless you are in love with one of the leading people. It’s good for a Sunday afternoon viewing when you are feeling relaxed and in a good mood.
Overall Score 7/10