Directed by Elise Robertson and written by lead actress Katherine Sainte Marie, it’s been fifteen years since Wendy Darling’s trip to Neverland, she couldn’t stop herself from growing up but she’s been forever dertermined to return to the magical land, however Peter Pan has other ideas. Also starring: Ty Shelton, Drew Hinckley, Denise Nicholson and Stella Ferguson.
There are countless stories of children visiting fantasy lands but none that tell of their lives in adulthood and the mental health consequences of having your every dream come true, only to be pushed into the reality that life isn’t fair for the rest of your days. That’s exactly what Darling, Darling, Wendy explores because after she’s seen all the wonders that Neverland has to offer, why would she ever want to life in a world where all she can aspire to be is a wife and a mother? Immediately upon opening, its score (by Tom Porter) sends you into atmosphere of a child’s fantasy world, it hits the familiar warming and hopeful notes. Unfortunately, that hope is not longed for this story, adulthood has sent Wendy down a dark road, where she’s restricted from being alone with her daughter and holds an air of fear and peril. Her time in Neverland has left her grown into an adult physically but mentally held back from ever moving forward, it’s a classic case of ‘be careful what you wish for’, getting everything you could possibly want then having it taken away, always has hurtful consequences.
Katherine Sainte Marie’s performance as Wendy holds that childlike innocence while balancing it very well with the darkness and envy that lives within her. It’s a difficult line to walk without the more naïve moments coming across as insincere, but Sainte Marie does a good job to bring Wendy’s sinister designs through in a way that portrays the character as unable to see the harm of her actions, only doing everything she can to fulfil her wish to return to where she believes that she belongs. Ty Shelton’s Pan is an interesting choice, he can come across as more flippant rather than the usual impishness, he feels less mischievous and more obstinate. His performance is missing more of the naivety that’s a key part of Pan’s charm, it doesn’t quite hit those notes of a breezy personality with a big heart. As the film nears its end, the kindness of his character does come through more strongly but it doesn’t feel as sincere as it could be.
The film has a huge potential for exploring dark and sinister themes but it feels as though it only touches upon them, instead playing it safe. This is partially foiled by the introduction of gender equality, there isn’t really enough time to deal with that issue and the result feels forced, it could have been left unsaid and that aspect of her reasoning would still have been implied. It briefly throws off the more ominous air that the film has built up till that point and sets things a little off balance heading into its final moments. However, the special effects that the film uses to introduce the ‘fairy dust’ work especially well, it’s only a small moment but it adds an extra layer to what it has to offer.
Darling, Darling, Wendy explores the untold story of living life in reality after having a world full of magic taken from you, of the resulting damage and jealousy that has dangerous consequences. It doesn’t quite dive as deeply into that sinister opportunity as it could have, keeping to the edges more fitting to its family friendly beginnings. Saint Marie provides a complex Wendy, while Shelton’s interpretation of Pan misses the mark slightly. It’s a new and interesting take on a beloved classic, taking influences from previous adaptations while adding its own style.