Sunday, 20 July 2014


“We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.” - Iris Murdoch

We watched a quirky and quite enjoyable film at the weekend, which was interesting because it was a fantasy film but with its feet firmly planted in reality. While we expected it to follow the likes of the Narnia Chronicles () or something like “Stardust this was a poignant story with a believable plot and the twists supplied by explanations based on psychology. The 103-minute film is Joshua Michael Stern’s 2005 “Neverwas starring Aaron Eckhart, Ian McKellen, John Hurt, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange and Brittany Murphy. Stern also wrote the screenplay.

Gabriel (Ian McKellan) is a hospitalised mental health patient whose terrors of childhood abuse have driven him away from society and into the forest in a fantasy realm called ‘Neverwas’. Zach (Aaron Eckhardt) is a psychiatrist who leaves a promising academic career in a prestigious institution to take a position in a small independent mental hospital where his celebrated writer and father Tom (Nick Nolte) was committed. While there, Zach encounters Gabriel, who recognizes Zach as the child of Tom’s ‘Neverwas’ book. Haunted by the story of Zach Small, the boy hero of his father’s best seller children’s book, Zach attempts to bring peace to the troubled minds of the mental patients and understand the clues which Gabriel delights in leaving for him.

In the process, Zach evaluates the troubled relationship he had with his father, comes to term with his father’s early death and heals his relationship with his eccentric mother (Jessica Lange). Zach tries to piece together a route of discovery, to what ‘Neverwas’ really is, despite night terrors, and maniacal enchantment. He is helped in this by fellow seeker, Maggie (BrittanyMurphy), an attractive reporter and fan of the ‘Neverwas’ book. Together, they search to find the truth, and in the process outwit the system of stifling bureaucratic medicine, legal blockades, and commercial exploitation of ‘Neverwas’ through following Gabriel’s clues.

The film outlines some mental conditions (although it is not meant to be a documentary about them, nor is it a comprehensive psychiatric vade mecum) and explores the way in which these conditions can impinge upon the lives of families and how they can have long-term effects as children who grow up with parents who struggle with mental illness. The fantasy element is well-handled and if one’s expectations of the film are not misplaced (this is not a fantasy film per se), one can enjoy it immensely. If you watch this film expecting sorcery, dragons, magic and lots of special effects you will be disappointed.

The performances are excellent and McKellen and Eckhart have a good chemistry together. Hurt is his usual self, although his role is relatively small. Nolte and Lange play supporting roles, but they do these with aplomb. The characters are not only believable and one can relate tot hem, they evoke the viewer’s sympathy, and one truly hopes that good things will happen to them after what they have been through. Ian McKellen’s performance shines, while Aaron Eckhart’s performance as a man seeking answers to the mysteries of his troubled youth reaches out to anyone who feels as if they’ve lost touch with their inner child. There is beautiful cinematography, lovely autumnal colour, creative camera angles, and an excellent score to boot.

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