Come Away parents guide

Come Away Parent Guide

You would expect a mash up of two magical tales to be, well, magical. It isn't.

Overall B-

In Theaters: When the Littleton family is struck by tragedy, their children retreat into Wonderland and Neverland.

Release date November 13, 2020

Violence B-
Sexual Content B+
Profanity A
Substance Use C

Why is Come Away rated PG? The MPAA rated Come Away PG for strong thematic content, some violence, fantasy action, and unsettling images.

Run Time: 94 minutes

Parent Movie Review

Wonder. Enchantment. Magic. These are the defining features of fairy tales, and all are embodied in the classic children’s books, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. You would assume that a movie mash up of these stories would embody these traits…but you’d be mistaken.

In combining these beloved tales, Come Away promises enchantment but fails to deliver. What it generates is emotion - lots and lots of emotion. Most of the film is drenched in grief and guilt, with a thin serving of bittersweet happiness at the end. It’s so melancholy, in fact, that you will want to consider your children’s tolerance for sad stories before watching the movie. If you have sensitive kids, they could easily spend much of the film crying, with bad dreams as an unwanted chaser.

Mournful atmosphere aside, the script for Come Away is quite clever, at least for fans of the source material. The story is set in Victorian England, where eight year old Alice Littleton (Keira Chansa) and her older brothers, David and Peter (Reece Yates and Jordan A Nash), are enjoying an idyllic childhood. They live in a charmingly shabby home in the English countryside and the siblings run wild in the woods, imagining battles with pirates and other foes. At home, their loving parents (David Oyelowo and Angelina Jolie) create a whimsical, joyful environment where the children flourish. But then tragedy strikes …

This is the point where the film turns dark as grief consumes the family. Rose Littleton seeks comfort in alcohol and husband Jack returns to gambling, an addiction he had previously overcome. As the children watch their parents unravel, they will also confront extended family members, whose behavior ranges from officious to evil. Fault lines the children never imagined will spread throughout the family, threatening to tear it apart.

In addition to its unexpectedly gloomy ambiance, I was surprised by the amount of negative content in a movie aimed at a family audience. There is a fair bit of relatively harmless imaginary violence, but there is also a chilling scene where a man comes home with a bloody bandage on his hand and informs his wife that the hand has been crushed in a beating. (He eventually loses the hand.) A character’s death is also portrayed on screen: it’s not graphic but it could still be disturbing to some young viewers. Also inappropriate for a children’s film is a scene where a child chugs alcohol, hoping it will take her away from her home and make her disappear. This isn’t the kind of behavior we want kids to see and emulate.

As I watched this film, I kept wondering who its intended audience is supposed to be. There’s too much violence and grief for little kids. Older kids and teens are likely to consider the movie “babyish”, thanks to its association with children’s books. Perhaps adult fans will appreciate the literary allusions to their beloved novels?

Sadly, though, the biggest problem facing this film is that the pixie dust was left out. Despite its stellar cast and beautiful visual design, the movie lacks magic. And without it, the story simply doesn’t fly.

Directed by Brenda Chapman. Starring Angelina Jolie, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and Michael Caine. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release November 13, 2020. Updated

Watch the trailer for Come Away

Come Away
Rating & Content Info

Why is Come Away rated PG? Come Away is rated PG by the MPAA for strong thematic content, some violence, fantasy action, and unsettling images.

Violence: There are numerous imaginary swordfights and battles with arrows and spears. A character drowns; his casket is seen. Later a photograph showing his dead body in the coffin is shown. A man cuts himself while carving; no blood seen. An adult hits a child with a stick. Animated characters have a brief swordfight. Imaginary boys have a battle with spears and arrows. A brick is thrown through a family’s window. A man threatens to kill a child. A man tries to cut a child’s hair without her consent. A woman slaps a child’s face. A man smashes and kicks a model ship. A man is seen with a bloody bandage on his hand: he says it’s been crushed and it is later lost. A woman appears to transform into a fearsome figure. A man’s hand is cut off and eaten by a crocodile.
Sexual Content: A husband and wife kiss. A man kisses his wife’s neck and chest (she’s fully clothed).
Profanity: There is one exclamation that involves a name of deity.
Alcohol / Drug Use:   A grieving woman drinks alcohol alone on more than one occasion. A child chugs alcohol, asking it to take her away and make her disappear.

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Come Away Parents' Guide

Coping with the death of a family member is difficult for everyone. What did the Littleton family do that was helpful or unhelpful? How can you support people you know who are grieving? What resources are available in your community for people who have lost a loved one?

Loved this movie? Try these books…

J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is widely available in different published versions. Lewis Carroll wrote two books starring Alice – Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. He also wrote a fantasy verse featuring Alice entitled The Hunting of the Snark.

The official sequel to Peter Pan is Gerladine McCaughrean’s Peter Pan in Scarlet. Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have added to the Peter Pan canon with their books, which begin with Peter and the Starcatchers. Disney’s Twisted Tales series includes a Peter Pan variant entitled Straight on Till Morning, written by Liz Braswell. Wendy Darling gets her own trilogy which begins with Stars by Colleen Oakes.

For more adventures in Wonderland, you can check out Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars, which features a conflict over Wonderland’s throne and toggles back and forth between the magical realm and Victorian London. For a bizarrely fascinating look at Alice’s world you can wander through Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel, Alice in Sunderland.

Home Video

Related home video titles:

The books on which this movie is based have received their own film adaptations. Disney has animated Peter Pan and there are several live action adaptations. Peter Pan is a straight up version and Pan features an appearance by the pirate Blackbeard. Hook stars Robin Williams as a workaholic father who has to save his children from a kidnapper. Further animated adventures come in Return to Never Land. Tinker Bell gets her own animated movies, including Tinker Bell, Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy, and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.

Finding Neverland is a fictionalized biopic of J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan.

Alice in Wonderland is also available in both an animated and live action version. You can also watch the live action sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass.

Another young girl has adventures in a magical world in The Wizard of Oz. Other takes on the story include the animated sequel Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return and the live action prequel Oz The Great and Powerful. Muppet fans will get a kick out of The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.

The four Pevensie siblings inadvertently find themselves in a world full of magic and talking beasts. The Chronicles of Narnia series features three films to date: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

A Japanese take on magical adventures can be found in the anime movies Howl’s Moving Castle, My Neighbor Totoro, and Spirited Away.

Children confront death and grief in A Monster Calls, Charlotte’s Web and Bridge to Terabithia.