It’s easy to escape into a world of fantasy like the one teased in Come Away, an origin story that reimagines the lives of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. While the story has potential and the cast is phenomenal, Come Away quickly loses its way. It’s devoid of the magic the story requires, falling into a sea of despair and leaving a lot to be desired.
The setting is scenic — a Victorian England countryside is the home of the Littleton family. Jack (David Oyelowo) and Rose (Angelina Jolie), whose names immediately bring Titanic to mind, are the parents of three imaginative and rambunctious children: David (Reece Yates), Peter (Jordan A. Nash), and Alice (Keira Chansa). They spend their summer pretending to have sword fights, tea parties, and wild adventures in the forest behind their home. That is, until tragedy strikes and forever changes their lives. As Jack and Rose grow detached while grieving the loss of their eldest child, Peter and Alice escape further into their fantasy worlds.
Directed by Brenda Chapman, with a screenplay by Marissa Kate Goodhill, Come Away has all the elements needed to build a lavish world replete with depth. However, the story never fully comes together in a way that is engaging or captivating. The cast’s performances are fantastic and often make up for the film’s lack of cohesiveness. It’s almost like the filmmakers had these grandiose ideas, but ones that didn’t quite shape up when put to paper.
The film is incredibly sad, filled with a hopelessness that goes against the message that it’s trying to convey. It’s also unclear what viewers are meant to feel while watching because the story isn’t able to balance the increasing darkness with pockets of light. Come Away goes down a deep, dark rabbit hole and struggles to navigate its way out of it successfully.
It feels more like an oppressive black hole of despair than anything else. The parents recoil in the wake of their son’s death and the children get lost in their imaginations as a way to avoid the harsh realities of their lives. It doesn’t make for a very hopeful or thoughtful ending despite the framing of its final act. Is it meant to inspire? Is grief so hard to bear that the fantasy becomes greater than reality?
As sad as it is to say, Come Away also has a lot of pacing issues. The film is slow and never picks up the pace, leading to a lot of boring moments with no buildup or dramatic tension in sight. It’s a shame because the story has so much potential and could have been far more inventive than it actually was (though there are several Easter eggs littered throughout from the worlds of Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland and it’s the best part). Ultimately, the movie misses the mark and it’s hard to feel anything but empty after watching.