Come Away

Tony Baxter (senior vice president of the Disney studio) stated "If you look at the broad spectrum of the Alice stories there is so much richness, and there's so many things to choose from that any one movie can only take a small angle of it. I think that will be the way that Alice will continue for the next several hundred years, each new person that comes along is going to find  a new avenue to explore this incredibly rich story. It's almost  impossible to mine it dry". ( From an interview in 'Reflections on Alice' extra for the 60th anniversary of Alice in Wonderland dvd).

This statement is very true in relation to the film 'Come Away' (it was to have been released in cinemas on 18th December 2020 but the cinemas were closed, I saw it on Netflix streaming) because it reimagines Alice (from Wonderland) and Peter ( from Neverland) as inter-racial siblings who love to act out imaginary scenes from their stories. Initially I did think it was Disney's big Christmas film release but discovered it was produced by the little-known Relativity company and did not have a big budget, my reason for thinking this was because it was directed by Brenda Chapman who had made the animated film Brave for Disney.

The film begins with the adult Alice (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) reciting W B Year's poem The Stolen Child (1886) to her three children at bedtime:- "Come Away, O human child! To the waters and the wild with a faery, hand in hand. For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand"

The scenes of imaginary games and flights of fancy are beautifully captured in Jules O'Loughlin's cinematography. The young Alice is played by Kiera Chansa. But then tragedy strikes with the death of their elder brother while out playing ( James Matthew Barrie's brother David died in a skating accident) this plunges their parents into grief, their father (David Oyelowo) gets into debt with gambling and their mother (Angelina Jolie) turns to drink, Alice and Peter try to escape their  troubles and trauma by escaping into a world of fantasy. In the mid section when Peter and Alice go to London to try to sell some 'treasures' it goes into the dark territory of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist when they encounter a boy not unlike 'The Artful Dodger' and a gang like 'Fagan's lads'. In a junk shop they meet the most sinister Mad Hatter.

It is a film that is difficult to know who it's aimed at because on the surface it seems like a family film but there are scenes that are scary and disturbing for young children.

Stephen Martin