What’s exceptionally creative is how the “real” circumstances of the Littleton family create certain 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 a stuffy, prim, and proper Aunt Elanor (Anna Chancellor) who is determined to make sure Alice becomes a “lady.” Unfortunately (spoiler alert), there is no Cheshire Cat, which might be one of the very few complaints I have about this film. There is a brief cameo from the always amazing Michael Caine, and adult Alice is played by the extremely talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw, which I guess makes up for it.
Brenda Chapman and writer Marissa Kate Goodhill create a wonderful world scrapped together from the minds of J.M. Barrie and Lewis Carroll and make something that I would never have imagined possible. I would have loved this film as a kid, just like I loved Spielberg’s 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 imagination isn’t as much of a necessity as it was back in the old days.
“…a heart-rending, joyful, and gorgeous movie that everyone should take their kids to go see…”
Something else I find worth mentioning is how special it is to me that the parents in Come Away are an interracial couple, and two of the most important characters in children’s literary history are something other than the white they always have been. It gives interracial children a story of their own, that is simultaneously universal. It’s also very moving to me that the film never once mentions a single thing about the races of their characters. If something like Come Away was made even ten years ago, that would be a central piece of the narrative if the film even got made at all. While the film takes place in the 1800s, it 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. We’re a long way away from that happening, but Come Away is a trailblazer in the right direction.
Overall, sociopolitical implications notwithstanding, Come Away is just a heart-rending, joyful, and gorgeous movie that everyone should take their kids to go see, if you love the stories of Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan especially. Or take your inner child to go see it, I know I’m glad that I did.
Come Away screened as part of the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.