Two stories, both beloved by generations. One of a girl who slips through the looking glass and finds herself in a magical world of singing flowers, a grinning cat, and a red queen. The other of the boy who wouldn’t grow up, and instead journeyed to the second star on the right and straight on to morning – never to become a man but to spend his days in play.
In Come Away, these stories are joined in the lives of the Littleton family. Siblings Peter and Alice (Jordan Nash and Keira Chansa respectively) along with their eldest brother David (Reece Yates) spend their idyllic days creating adventures and soaking up the affection of their doting parents Rose (Angelina Jolie) and Jack (David Oyelowo). Tucked away in the country, the Littletons seem to have all the peace and contentment any family could long for – until tragedy strikes.
As they reel from grief, Rose and Jack slip into despair – Rose turning to drink and Jack retuning to his long-ago gambling past…and those debts come calling. Peter and Alice strive to hold onto the joy of youth, but Peter is burdened by his quest to save his family from the reality knocking at their door, and Alice seeks out the comfort of her high class aunt (and Rose’s sister) Eleanor (Anna Chancellor). Their paths begin to drift – one into a temporary Wonderland and the other into the timeless Neverland.
From a conceptual standpoint, the joining of these two stories was intriguing. I’ve written before how I’ve always been a fan of Peter Pan lore, so it made sense for me to check this one out. Alice in Wonderland has never been a favorite of mine so I wasn’t sure what to really expect, but this is pretty much set up as a prequel of sorts. And I think it works. The dynamics that lead Peter and Alice onto their respective paths create another level of dimension into their “why’s.” For Peter, it wasn’t just about not wanting to grow up – it was about recognizing the reality of pain and change and a way to hold onto an untainted joy. For Alice it was less about escape and more about being unsure what was real and what wasn’t, and about finding where she would feel at home.
The casting is phenomenal, with Angelina Jolie in her element playing the once ethereal and doting mother turned despondent and dismissal of her children. David Oyelowo is engaging as a craftsman who encourages the play of his children, but still struggles with both his lower class position and debt-riddled past. Anna Chancellor (of the BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice) is perfectly balanced between disappointed sister and doting aunt. And the children carry an impressive range of emotions and believability. Rounding out this stellar cast is Gugu Mbatha-Raw as the adult Alice narrating, and Michael Caine as an acquaintance from Jack’s past. Together they tell a dynamic story of what happens when the veil of sanctuary is ripped away.
Overall, I found Come Away engaging and thought provoking. I imagine I’ll uncover even more of the treasures (both real and fanciful) that Peter and Alice sought in the midst of trial and transition with a second or third watch – something that is definitely on my list.