Come Away (2020) Review

Owing a little more, perhaps, to Charles Dickens and C S Lewis than J M Barrie or Lewis Carroll, “Come Away” may be rich in production values and period flourishes but whatever great expectations you may have are soon dashed by this muddled faux Dickensian fantasia.

The story introduces us to the Littleton family, parents Rose (Angelina Jolie) – from a well to do family – and Jack (David Oyelowo), a former street hustler turned intricate model maker and their three children David, Peter and Alice. They live a quiet but contented life in the country but when tragedy strikes, Rose and Jack seek solace in the vices of the past while Peter and Alice find comfort in the fantasies of Neverland and Wonderland.

Directed by Brenda Chapman (“Brave”, “The Prince Of Egypt”), “Come Away” has a fine cast, especially the younger actors and the performances are solid across the board but they’re all too often adrift in a narrative that frequently blurs fantasy and reality without skill, finesse or clarity of purpose. Because it never fully commits to its fantasy elements it’s never clear whether there is any actual magic at play or whether we’re being made privy to the children’s imaginative coping mechanisms. In fact, for the majority of its runtime, it errs on the side of the former, making its final act twist something of a surprise and, unfortunately, a leap that’s too far and far too late.

Along the way, there are sibling dramas for each of the parents too, as Rose fends off the pushy snobbery of her well-to-do sister Eleanor (Anna Chancellor) and Jack finds himself in hock to his gangland brother James (David Gyasi), each of which flirt with elements of the fantastical children’s stories at the heart of this classical literature mash-up.

Starry cameos occasionally brighten things but ultimately it’s too dark and mannered for children, too prone to ill-thought-out flights of fancy for grown-ups. It’s a gangling, awkward teenager of a movie, uncomfortable in its own skin and prone to tripping over its own feet.