NEW TO HULU! What happens when Brenda Chapman, co-writer and director of Brave, steps away from the world of animation? The pure magic that is Come Away! What is, by design, a movie for kids doesn’t hesitate to dazzle even the most jaded of adults, myself included. Marissa Kate Goodhill’s script also deals with subject matter that most adults are familiar with either personally or by proxy: alcoholism, gambling addiction, and death. What is unique about this is how the children of the central family, the Littletons, deal with these horrible circumstances.
Rose (Angelina Jolie) is a delightful woman with a wondrous, child-like attitude towards life. Her husband, Jack (David Oyelowo), crafts replicas of ships by trade and is also exceptionally young at heart. They have three children: David (Reece Yates), Peter (Jordan A. Nash), and Alice (Keira Chansa). It doesn’t take too long before we discover that Peter and Alice are not just any Peter and Alice. They are the titular characters from Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. We witness them build imaginary worlds that feature the white rabbit, the lost boys, the red queen, and more.
Come Away would be cute enough if the imaginary worlds were the basis for famous stories, but it certainly wouldn’t have the substance that it possesses. A tragedy befalls the Littleton family, leaving Alice and Peter without David, who they both looked up to. Their parents are individually falling apart over this and aren’t giving their children much solace, falling into their own disastrous coping mechanisms. Alice and Peter further retreat into their respective worlds, but then the real fun begins when the worlds of Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan come together.
What’s exceptionally creative is how the “real” circumstances of the Littletons create classic characters and scenes. Particularly hilarious while simultaneously devastating is the origin of the potion that shrinks Alice. We also discover that the Mad Hatter is just an old man (Clark Peters) with a penchant for fine hats and a touch of dementia. The red queen is the stuffy, prim, and proper Aunt Elanor (Anna Chancellor), who is determined to make Alice become a “lady.” Unfortunately (spoiler alert), there is no Cheshire Cat, which might be one of the very few complaints I have.
“…tragedy befalls the Littleton family, leaving Alice and Peter without David…”
Chapman and Goodhill create a wonderful world scrapped together from the minds of J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll and craft something that I would never have imagined possible. I would’ve loved Come Away as a kid, just like I loved Hook. I’m glad that this current generation of children get something to teach them the importance of imagination, especially in a world dominated by screens and technology where it seems not to be much of a necessity.
Something else worth mentioning is how special it is that the parents are an interracial couple, and two of the most important characters in children’s literary history are something other than white, which they’ve always have been. It gives interracial children a story of their own that is simultaneously universal. It’s also very moving that the film never once mentions a single thing about the races of their characters.
Come Away is one of the more progressive films I’ve seen in my lifetime for this reason. One can only hope that films with diverse casts continue to be made so often that it’s the rule rather than the exception. Unfortunately, we’re a long way away from that happening, but the film is a trailblazer in the right direction.
Overall, sociopolitical implications notwithstanding, Come Away is a heartrending, joyful, and gorgeous movie that every parent should watch with their kids. This is especially true if you love the stories of Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan. Or make it a night in with you and your inner child; I know I am glad I did that.
Come Away screened at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
"…one of the more progressive films I've seen..."