“On every birthday of our childhoods, my sister Eliza and I wished as we blew out the candles that we would never grow up” says filmmaker Benh Zeitlin. “We were terrified of our older selves and desperate to determine what kind of loss turns kids into grown-ups, before it was too late, and that door closed forever”. Following his critically-acclaimed Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zeitlin returns – a staggering eight years later – with this beautiful adventure inspired by J. M. Barrie’s beloved tale of Peter Pan.
Co-written with his sister Eliza and shot on the mountainous Caribbean island of Montserrat, Wendy is a poignant reimagining of the classic tale told from the perspective of the titular Wendy (Devin France). Filmed with a handheld camera by cinematographer Sturla Brandth Grøvlen (Another Round), the film looks absolutely mesmerising from start to finish with some truly striking visuals that transport us to Neverland like never before, while still feeling far more grounded in reality than previous more fantastical adaptations. Those familiar with Zeitlin’s previous film will not be surprised to learn Wendy utilises a lot of the same creative team, while the fresh-faced young performers are remarkable – a star is born in Devin France, who impresses in the titular lead.
The film’s narrative can occasionally veer towards the incoherent and messy, but the film’s wonderful style – backed up by a flawless score from Dan Romer (recently scoring Disney/Pixar’s Luca) – is enough to keep it on track as it approaches its beautifully inspiring and thought-provoking climax. This is a film utterly full of wonder and childlike adventurous spirit, and the result is a surprisingly emotional watch for anyone whose childhood feels like a million years ago. I left Wendy wanting to go on an adventure of make believe and excitement, and isn’t that what cinema is all about?
“We hope that for those who see her and believe in her, Wendy gives courage and wisdom to
laugh in the face of everything that life tries to take from us as our number goes up and up” says director Benh Zeitlin, and that is certainly the effect the film had on me. Perhaps one of the most genuine and poignant portrayals of growing up seen in film for a long time, Wendy soars. It is a beautiful and touching fantasy that reminds us to awaken our inner child and believe in magic once again. See it on the biggest screen you can find.
WENDY will be released in UK and Irish cinemas on 13 August.
You can find more info and showtimes here.