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4.2 out of 5 stars 85 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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 father’s (Nick Nolte) life and the magical place he wrote about in the beloved children’s 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 won’t 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

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Aaron Eckhart, Ian McKellen, Brittany Murphy, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange
  • Directors: Joshua Michael Stern
  • Writers: Joshua Michael Stern
  • Producers: Aaron Eckhart, Amanda Mackey Johnson, Bruce Toll, Carsten H.W. Lorenz, Deboragh Gabler
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Miramax
  • DVD Release Date: July 3, 2007
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000OZ2CP2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #95,928 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Neverwas" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 1, 2007
Format: DVD
NEVERWAS, a little miracle of a movie written and directed by Joshua Michael Stern, is an allegory, a fairytale, a dissection of the impact of mental illness on parents and children, and story of compassion, believing, and blossoming of character that was created with a sterling ensemble of actors in 2005, failed to find a niche in theatrical distribution, and went straight to DVD - becoming one of those limited release films that is very elusive even in the megavideo stores. The reasons for this relative anonymity are not clear, but film lovers will do well searching out this little gem: the rewards are immediate gratification and long lasting satisfaction.

Narrated by Ian McKellan who plays a major role in the film, the story concerns the return of psychiatrist Zachary Riley/Small (Aaron Eckhart) to an obsolete mental institution named Millhouse, the hospital where his author father T.L. Pierson (Nick Nolte) ended his days in suicide, having suffered from bipolar syndrome. Zach wants to discover secrets about his father, why his father's book 'Neverwas' has been so disturbing to Zach, and to offer good medical treatment to those patients living in the obscure hospital run by the kindly but enigmatic Dr. Reed (William Hurt). Zach is buoyant, greets his new job with joy, and works with various patients in group and individual therapy (the group includes well developed characters portrayed by Alan Cumming, Vera Farmiga, and Michael Moriarty, among others) and encounters the apparently mute Gabriel Finch (Ian McKellan), a delusional man who believes Zach has returned to break the curse preventing his return to his imaginary kingdom of Neverwas.
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I am a huge movie watcher, and I must say this is one of the best written, directed, acted and filmed movies I've seen in a while. It had me worried as I didn't know how the movie was going until the end. And I think it is a beautiful movie and of course Ian Mckellen is incredible. The one mistake I made was thinking it was a fantasy, and it is not. If you go into this with more of a feel-good dramatic movie that is very cleaver in its filming, you can really appriciate it. Then watch it a second time, after you know the story and see how cleaverly it is written. This is a wonderful movie
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Format: DVD
This was one of the best films I have ever seen. I, probably like many others began watching this film thinking it was a fantasy children's film, but soon realized it was much more. Having just finished a semester of mental health nursing made this film was even more facinating. It was wonderfully acted, directed and filmed. I thought it was one of Nick Nolte's best performances and I love anything Ian McKellen is in, he's always wonderful. But I think what I really loved about this film was that it touches on innocence, fantasy, reality, the very human elements that many people overlook in their fast-paced busy lives, what lies behind some mental illnesses, and what is labelled (sometimes mistakenly) as mental illness. This story touched on so many elements that I know I have probably missed some. I intend to watch it several more times and fully expect to see stuff that I missed on the first go-around. And, although it has it's sad moments, it has a happy ending. For those folks out there who didn't like the film or were bored...I think they just didn't "get it"...or maybe they didn't want to "get it".
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Format: DVD
The story of director Joshua Michael Stern's 2005 film "Neverwas" centers around Zachary Riley/Pierson (Aaron Eckhart), a psychiatrist, who returns home to inadvertently delve into his own troubled past as the son of a legendary children's author of J. R. R. Tolkien stature. Father T.L., creator of the beloved land of Neverwas--a fictitious conglomeration of elements from Tolkien's "Hobbit," Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland," Phillip Pullman's "The Golden Compass" and C. S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia," commits suicide after a stay in the very hospital in which Zach will practice. Upon meeting inmate Gabriel (the sublime Ian McKellan--knight templar of the mellifluous voice) Zach discovers that the imaginary world that made his father famous, may very well have been the creation of someone else. An interesting premise, I would think--implemented by all the right accoutrements: exquisitely rendered notebooks filled with lovely fantastical drawings that show in stages the supposed conception of the Neverwas universe (think of the intricate schematics the magician Eisenheim uses in film "The Illusionist") and an autumn-hued New England town awash with oodles of nostalgic T.L. ephemera ( a 25th anniversary edition of the book showcased in a bookstore window, father Pierson's introspective author's photo displayed at a local eatery and Brittany Murphy's coveted Neverwas lunchbox converted to a makeshift purse.) Add plenty of psychologically intense moments of revelation supercharged with enough childhood flashbacks that even Sigmund himself would careen into a tailspin. Packed with all the potential of a good mélange of mystery, fantasy and psychology, the film should have been a contiguous epiphany of wondrous wows.Read more ›
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