Bart and I have finished the BBC special The Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin. (More on it here and here.)
All of the praise for it is not unfounded. It’s a damn fine piece of work. For those of you who don’t know, the story of J.M. Barrie and the Llewellyn Davies does not end happily. They are besieged with internal discontents and external tragedies. If your knowledge comes from Finding Neverland, then perhaps you’re not aware of what truly befell them. The boys pretty much wind up resenting the whole idea of Peter Pan, as it is a stigma and association they cannot avoid. “Oh! You’re the real Peter Pan!” Imagine hearing that all your life! Furthermore, unrest settles in the house as egos flair, leading Mary Hodgson (the boys’ nursemaid) to leave, dejected. George is killed in World War I, Michael seems to have committed suicide, Jack never quite liked the notion of “Uncle Jim” and although the program did not show it, Peter jumped in front of train at age 63.
As the drama increased, the performances elevated. Ian Holm does indeed do a wonderful job at displaying the joys and upsets of Barrie’s life. A bittersweetness that boils into just plain bitterness. Not to paint an unflattering picture of Barrie. The guy had to deal with more than his share of horror. The series ends with him playing with another child, showing that he still had hope and whimsy within him. There is much to be found in the power of the performances.
Bravo to Birkin, as well, for the script. For instance, he never had to tell you that George had been killed in the war. No words to that effect are ever spoken. Instead it can be inferred in a touching bemoaning session and a telegram in Barrie’s hand. Nicely played. Heartbreaking.
When I think of the Barrie/Llewellyn Davies story, I prefer the earlier happier times. Rambunctious boys out playing in the woods by a lake. The sadness, fears, rejections and abandoment are best left to the dark side of the Neverland.
I highly recommend this series for anyone who is interested in the real story of “J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys” instead of the glamorized Hollywood version.
*The picture is the Region 2 DVD cover.