Weaving together fantasy and reality, past and present, Neverwas is the enchantment-filled, life-affirming tale about a young man (Aaron Eckhart) who finds out his childhood fantasyland may really exist. Searching for insight into his fathers (Nick Nolte) life and the magical place he wrote about in the beloved childrens book, Neverwas, psychiatrist Zach Riley (Eckhart) takes a job at the institution where he lived on and off. Once there, Zach meets Gabriel (Sir Ian McKellen), a patient whose alternate reality is startlingly close to the world his father created. Featuring a critically acclaimed all-star cast that also includes William Hurt, Jessica Lange and Brittany Murphy, Neverwas is a magical and moving journey of discovery you wont soon forget.
A stellar cast buoys Neverwas
, a 2005 feature written and directed by Joshua Michael Stern. And what a lineup it is. Aaron Eckhart stars as Zach, a psychiatrist who abandons his cushy gig at Cornell in order to work at a funky, underfunded New England institution run by Dr. Peter Reed (an underused William Hurt), where his own father (Nick Nolte, seen in various flashbacks), who wrote the wildly popular children's book named in the title but was also a manic depressive, was briefly ensconced before killing himself, leaving his young son burdened with the grim memory of finding the body. Ian McKellen is Gabriel, a patient at the nuthouse in question who knows a good deal more about Zach's dad than Zach does; Jessica Lange is his boozy, annoying mother; Brittany Murphy is his love interest; and other patients include Michael Moriarty, The Departed
's Vera Farmiga, and Bill Bellamy. Their respective agents must have had a field day determining the billing order, but Neverwas
, which bears a passing resemblance to Finding Neverland
and The Fisher King
, doesn't seem to know what kind of picture it wants to be. It's not family fare, as themes like suicide and mental illness are too dark and complex for kids. It's not a romance, nor is it a fantasy, a father-son drama, or an adventure. Not that it doesn't have its strong points: McKellen lights up the screen every time he appears on it, the cinematography is often quite lovely, and the overall notion of life and art as a circular form, as in Zach's having to figure out how he fit into both his dad's book (the hero is a boy named Zachary) and his real life, is intriguing. On balance, however, Neverwas
is a whole that is disappointingly less than the sum of its parts. --Sam Graham