Review: Come Away – A Misguided Retelling of the Classic Tales

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A mismatched blend of two much-loved fairytales which fails to create a story for the whole family to enjoy.

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When you think of an origin story in cinema, you’d perhaps usually think along the lines of Marvel comic characters such as Hulk or Thor, or maybe even the life of Bilbo Baggins within Middle Earth – I’m not sure your first thought would ever be about the origin stories of the titular characters in both Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan (1902). Well, if that thought hadn’t even crossed your mind then it has now, and maybe you wish it hadn’t.

The latest project of The Prince of Egypt (1998) and Brave (2012) director Brenda Chapman, who became the first woman to direct a DreamWorks Animated feature, is nothing short of wacky. Come Away, lead by renowned stars Angelina Jolie and David Oyelowo, is a fantasy drama that follows the strangely blended lives of Alice and Peter (from their respective beloved children’s books) as they struggle to help their parents overcome the death of their eldest son.

In the film’s narrative, the parents Jack (Oyelowo) and Rose (Jolie) – whom I couldn’t stop thinking of Kate and Leo from Titanic (1997) after hearing their names – seemingly allow their two young children to be the adults of the family in a strange neglectful/child abuse-type story which isn’t quite fitting for a family film. There are strange references to the parents’ struggles, Jack becomes a gambler who falls into a pit of debt while Rose seemingly struggles with alcoholism which is alleviated with the added ‘Drink Me’ note from Lewis Carroll’s original telling.

Whilst I’m seemingly slating the film, the use of special effects are strong, and a crucial ingredient for the fantasy genre potion it aims to fulfil. Perhaps Come Away would garner more impact, and maybe the performances would gain flight, if it weren’t for the the misguided retelling that plays before our eyes, one that struggles to promise more than what is given.

It is possible that Come Away should’ve been turned into a fantasy-horror, one that reminisces of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) and Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland (2010) remake from Tim Burton. Dark tones and sombre moods would complement the film’s narrative progression and character aims, giving it a dark fairytale atmosphere that would maybe have provided more entertainment without sending mixed messages to its audience.

The trailer of Come Away was a somewhat promising one, but with such a disappointing outcome it is easy to overlook the crisp cinematography and reasonably strong acting. When we were promised uplifting scenes, we were instead given an air of sadness and a confusing overall message with poor delivery. Come Away has the makings of being a good drama film, but why it became a fantasy film intended for kids we’ll never know – it’s way too dark for all that!

Come Away, directed by Brenda Chapman, is distributed in the UK via Signature Entertainment, released into cinemas on December 18  of Signature Entertainment. Watch the trailer below:

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third-year film student & records/live exec 20/21

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