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Hidden Gem
jammy829912 September 2005
This is one of those quiet little movies that you go to see one day because you have nothing better to do and the plot sounds OK but you really haven't heard much about. Then you come out of the theatre wondering why everyone else you know hasn't gone to see it yet. Ian McKellan and Aaron Eckhart both give strong performances easily pulling off the emotionalism needed for the movie, and throwing in enough humor to keep you interested. Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange, William Hurt, and Brittany Murphy all pull off great supporting roles without overshadowing the main actors. Alan Cumming, although his role is small, really pulls at the heart strings with his portrayal of a patient of the institution.

Because this movie has had little (if any) publicity, I think this movie will do well based on word of mouth alone. Definitely a "hidden gem".
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A Great Emotional Fairy Tale
MartinAyla17 November 2006
When I read some of the negative comments here I almost didn't watch the movie; Now I'm glad I did!

I love movies where you are drawn into the story and feel like you are actually there the whole time. I felt like that the whole duration of the movie and forgot everything else for a short period of time.

The whole fairy tale versus the real-life (sad) story is wonderfully written and works in every way.

Maybe it's because I experienced the same thing with my father, as Zach does, when I was young, but the emotions that Zach goes through are very real and really made me think. Missing someone so much, feeling guilty, problems sleeping, are all things I'm familiar with. And It's good to feel that you're not the only one with these kind of emotions.

The acting is fantastic, involved and emotional.

The whole "autumn feel" cinematography and melancholic music sets a great mood.

Neverwas touched me.

I suggest you watch it if you believe just a little bit in fairy tales and want to see something different than most productions coming out from major studios at the moment.
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A challenging movie that rewards the thoughtful viewer
michaeljcarroll10 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
There is absolutely no way to discuss this movie without revealing some aspects of it. On the other hand, this is not a movie that relies on the ending, but one illuminated by it. Like "Sixth Sense", this is a movie that means more on the second viewing.

So, I will give away part of the basic structure of the movie. If you already plan on seeing the movie, there is no reason to continue. If not, you might as well read ahead; it might change your mind.

SPOILER WARNING! For us the viewers, the story starts in the middle. Zach, son of a the famous author of the children's book "Neverwas" quits a position as a psychiatrist at a prominent college to go to a nobody's-heard-of-it institution in the community where he grew up. Zach (we learn quickly) is tormented by the suicide of this father. Like most suicide relatives, he both blames his father and himself. He has divorced himself from the fantastical world of his father's book, from all fantasy at all, from all remuneration from his father's highly successful book. For Zachary, reality is survival.

He meets a delusional paranoid schizophrenic named Gabriel. What we don't get told about Gabriel until the end of the movie is his nightmarish existence as a little boy: being locked up, abused. Gabriel survived this by creating a world of his own, Neverwas. Neverwas is a world of hope and peace, a world inhabited by fairies and in which Gabriel is the benign king.

Gabriel and Zach's father meet in the mental institution. Gabriel is there for his delusions, Zach's father for his bipolar-ism. The father and Gabriel become friends. Zach's father offers his belief in Neverwas. In fact, he takes Gabriel's world and turns it into his story. As each go in and out of institutions, they maintain a correspond of affection and support.

Gabriel's Neverwas is on land that ultimately Zach's father purchases for him. Unfortunately, the father is not able to care for Gabriel or provide him long term security. His depressions win out and he commits suicide.

The conflict/question the movie initially presents - right up until the final revelations - is what is real. The viewer is led to believe there might actually be a Neverwas. This is necessary because we need to see the world from Gabriel's eyes; and to do this we must accept him with condescension. Were we to simply see him as schizophrenic, we might feel sympathy for him, but we would never empathize with him or truly understand his needs.

Unfortunately, this will lead many viewers to think this is another fantasy come true; and they will be disappointed by the "truth." However, the truths that do come out are beautiful and moving; and there is certainly the fantasy of a "happy ending", more than one has a right to expect from reality.

The true story here is how people change: How Zach comes to see the need for fantasy, to forgive his father and himself; how Gabriel out of desperation has his one moment of cold reality in which he can articulate his need for Neverwas.

And the movie has its moments of humor and insight and romance.

For anyone willing to think and be moved, I recommend this movie highly.
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crazydark18 November 2006
I don't know where eabrownfield (reviewer) gets off telling people to "stay away" from Neverwas. This is a magical, and very touching story.

An excellent premise with a superb cast and stellar performances from all involved. The scenic settings were well shot and lit, often showing the differences between the dark and lighter sides of life.

I say dark, yes there are parts in this film that are hard hitting, poinient moments that really make you think and get you inside the characters being played, again i think this is down to the great acting.

The flip side is the fairy tale narrative that runs through the whole film, not that it turns in to a children's film at all, as its a story I'm sure many can relate to and will enjoy being told in this fashion. I will say it probably deserves its pg13 rating, its perhaps not for the very young, despite its fairy tale like appearance.

Overall go and see this film, you wont be disappointed, i had a great time.
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Making the Ordinary and the 'Unordinary' Extraordinary
gradyharp1 October 2007
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.

Zach meets a 'grad student botantist'/reporter Ally (Brittany Murphy) who loves Zach's father's book and urges Zach to read the fairytale as a means to assuage Zach's new nightly nightmares and insomnia dealing with images of himself as a child, his father's suicide, and other strange forces. Ally's commitment to Zach's father's book, Zach's breakthrough to Gabriel Finch, together with Zach's re-evaluation of his agoraphobic mother (Jessica Lange) all intertwine to reestablish Zach's discovery of his relationship to a father whose mental illness prevented the close relationship Zach so desperately missed. In a tumbling set of events that incorporate the fairytale of the book Neverwas with the reality of Zach's father's relationship to Gabriel Finch brings the story to a heartwarming, well considered, touching conclusion. Being 'unordinary' is a goal, not a curse.

In addition to the above-mentioned stellar cast, small parts are also created by Bill Bellamy, Ken Roberts, Cynthia Stevenson among others. The cinematography by Michael Grady manages to keep the audience balanced between real and fantasy and the musical score by renowned composer Philip Glass fits the story like a glove. Ian McKellan gives a multifaceted performance of a man whose delusional life is far more real than his life as a mental patient, Aaron Eckhart finesses the transformation of the lost child seeking his roots with great skill, Nick Nolte gives one of his finer interpretations as the disturbed father/author, and Brittany Murphy manages to maintain a much needed lightness to the atmosphere of the mental institution story setting. The impact of the film, while absorbing from the first images, is the ending, a reinforcement of the importance of love and nurturing that too often is relegated to little books for children instead of the manner in which we live our lives. This is a fine film well worth ferreting out from the obscurity to which it so unjustly has been assigned. Grady Harp
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A fine film
ClayDeaver18 November 2006
I enjoyed it immensely, not being a critic, I simply can say, I identified with the human struggle which in this story wore the garb of mental illness, and the triumph of the soul, which as usual required faith and courage. I also thoroughly enjoyed the acting. Brittany Murphy was adorable opposite Aaron Echart. Ian McKellan was a wonderful depiction of a fairy tale king. This was not a low budget film and the money wan't wasted. It's curious that films like this one are released and there is no fanfare whatsoever. I am always hoping to find a sleeper and have the surprise of a great evenings entertainment. Neverwas delivered. Enough said. And I didn't even have to mention Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange or any of the other great talent in this film.
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Great film!
WingDing7475 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
The great things about films are that they are subjective, if I enjoy a film it doesn't mean that you will enjoy the film or vice versa. I loved Neverwas, the cinematography, the soundtrack, a director who believed and a cast that were wonderful.

Neverwas is about a young boy (Zachary) and his father (Nick Nolte, who by the way is excellent) and their loving but dysfunctional relationship. The father writes a book about an ordinary man who rules over a fantasy land called Neverwas. In Neverwas the young boy (Zachary Small) must battle the evil Ghastly and his evil minions. But shortly after writing the book the father falls in to a deep depression, a depression which ultimately deprives him of his life. Zach grows up.

A boy becomes a man and he forgets about the childhood stories his father told him, he forgets the good times and remembers the bad. The human psyche is a funny thing, it can easily grant us control of our destiny and with ease take it away. Zach takes a position at a local Mental institute, the very institute that held his father. Here he meets the eccentric schizophrenic Gabriel (played by an wonderful Ian McKellen), Gabriel tells the story of Neverwas and how he is the king of the land. He believes Zachary is there to free him from Ghastly and his minions and tells him that he has but five days before Ghastly will destroy the castle and make Neverwas a cold and harsh land. He also meets with childhood friend Maggie Blake (played by a very charming Brittany Murphy) and together they journey to find not only Neverwas, but Zachs true identity, the one left behind in his forgotten childhood memories. After some digging Zach finds out that Gabriel told about the land of Neverwas ten years before his father wrote the book. Could it be real? Should he believe? One mans dreams turns out to be one mans journey. A journey to find not only the truth, but himself.

What is Neverwas? To me? To me. Neverwas is about Hope.
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Neverwas is more than simply excellent.
caedmonette6 February 2010
I could extol the effectiveness of the photography, or the superiority of the acting. I could cheer for a film that has so many talented and revered actors. Also, I could urge you to give "Neverwas" your complete attention so that you do not miss the subtle hints or twists in the plot, or encourage you not to reject this film too early in the narrative because some parts may be too dark or puzzling with a modern psychological scrutiny that would endear any viewer who loves Hitchcock. However, I won't.

This movie contains the absolute Truth about the purpose of human existence. I hope that (as a viewer) you have the insight to perceive it.
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wonderfully refreshing
crinamoore8 December 2008
In these times of violent, sex-ridden entertainment this movie was refreshing. The story is intensely acted, the soundtrack fit the scenes emotionally, the colors are intense and vibrant. Watch this and please enjoy. The story is easy to follow, even with the flashbacks. The emotions are well portrayed by each actor. The soundtrack fit the scenes and brought me on an emotional "ride". The scenes with the filters of light and color are quite appropriate. The storyline is unpredictable without the usual Hollywood formula that I, personally, have grown sick of. This movie makes one - anyone - feel special, despite the imperfections and ghosts that lurk beneath our emotional shields.
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redeyedtreefrog8 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
No Reservations. The Core. Paycheck. Thank You For Smoking. Erin Brochovich. And so on and so on. Aaron easily shifts from one role to the next. I do not think that he is in any danger of becoming stereotyped. This is refreshing. I do not, however, mean to take anything away from his costars. William Hurt and Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange have not been 'A-listers' for some time but they still know how to give a powerfully moving performance. I am devoid of any real reference re Ian Mckellen and Brittany Murphy but they put in strong performances as do ones like Alan Cumming. This movie is about the dark side of life and how tormenting it can be especially regarding mental illness or deep loss. It also highlights the effects on loved ones, in particular children. The triumph of this movie is making you certain of what is fact and what is fiction and yet having that teased every inch of the way. I highly recommend this little known and highly under-appreciated movie.
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A gem of a film
cristem14 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'd never heard of this film, then I noticed the DVD and it had some good actors, so what the heck--I rented it.

It's absolutely great! A beautifully done, well-acted, touching story with a complex plot, multi-layered characters, excellent suspense, and a lovely magical quality. It's a fairy tale, and like fairy tales, it deals with some dark material. There's a deep irony that the author of a successful children's book, a Tolkheinesque runaway best-seller, that brought people of all ages hope was himself deeply disturbed. And that the child, who modeled the boy hero, saw the book as his bane to the extent he'd never look at it. Then, in his desire to conquer his own inner dragons, he chooses to try to help others without hope--chronic mental patients. In the process he finally finds the courage to reconcile with his own past. It is also ironic and touching that the chronic mental patient, played by Ian MacClellan in a Gandalf-like role, is the one who has the information to heal the psychiatrist.

One little plot issue bothered me: The father's book earned enormous royalties, which the psychiatrist inherited but never touched. It turned out that the story ideas had come from the mental patient, to whom the father had never given credit. In all fairness the psychiatrist might at least have used some of the money to benefit the old guy--buy the land for him, set up a trust fund...
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the best movie i have ever seen for a long time....
mayashanti200017 November 2006
this is the kind of movie u never forget ....just like "la vida e bella" or "dancer in the dark" made me jealous on these people that have a land of their own...that "live as they dream"...unbelievable how simple it is to be happy and how much we complicate our lives sometimes.....anyway....i would like to thank all the actors and the people that worked to make this movie....because , even though it made me cry at first they were happy tears.... but the truth is that by watching this carefully u get (anyways i did) an idea about what really matters in your life...your dreams, your childhood (and the importance of remaining a child forever ), family, love, friends....and the most important YOURSELF....your own happiness, your own craziness,your own pleasures in life...and if that pleasure/ happiness is to live in a world of your own with kingdoms and unbelievable characters ...SO BE IT...u are a SPECIAL person......

thank u :)
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Very interesting
kblair713 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
This film had a fabulous cast. With Ian Mckellan and Joshua Stern, and Jessica Lange, Nick Nolte, Aaron Eckhart, Brittany Murphy, Alan Cumming.

The plot began with a psychologist that returned to work at the hospital that his father stayed at when he was a boy. The condition of his father was fuzzy and ill explained but not so important to the plot that it hindered the story telling. There was some trouble with continuity but again the actors were able to carry the story. Ian McKellen was fantastic as Gabriel Finch, his performance was reminiscent to me, of the Madness of King George. Nevertheless, he made the world of Neverwas seem real and created a sense of suspense that Joshua Stern was unable maintain as he blundered though the script. Jessica Lange was able to connect with the audience and conveyed a sense of child-like wonder running through the woods to the fairy-tale world. At least the movie didn't take itself to seriously.
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Watch this if you have the chance!
Gordon-116 November 2006
This film is a tale of a psychiatrist trying to find his father's past by working in the mental hospital where his father resided in.

Let me begin by saying that this film is very good! When the credits roll in the beginning, I was already shocked by the number of big names in the film. 7 really big names! This cast can only matched by super big budget films.

The initial scene of group therapy in the hospital is very impressive. It showcases the various actor's talents. I was particularly impressed by Ian McKellen and Vera Farmiga playing to be mental patients. Interestingly, they both acted as psychiatrists in other recent films, namely Asylum (for Ian McKellen) and The Departed (for Vera Farmiga).

Aaron Eckhart's role cannot be underestimated as well. He is mature enough to be a psychiatrist, and I was also impressed by the techniques he used to interview patients. He is very convincing as a psychiatrist! Towards the end of the film, when the focus changed Aaron Eckhart being a psychiatrist to him aligning with Ian McKellen to find the truth, is particularly gripping. It manages to get my full attention as to how the story will unfold. The plot twist is very surprising, and the finale is very emotional and visually appealing.

I am very surprised that good films like this one is not released. Do watch it if you have the chance!
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Despite the facile ending, this is a good movie.
In some ways this film is reminiscent of films such as "The Fisher King" and "They Might be Giants". In both of those films the central idea was that the mad have a separate reality. In this story, the main character, Zachary, is a psychiatrist attempting to understand the nature of his father's madness. He takes a position at a mental institution where his father had been hospitalized. There he meets and becomes friends with an old man, Gabriel, who knew his father while they were both inmates. He comes to realize that the old man's delusion was the basis for his father's inspiration as a children's fantasy writer. After his father is "cured" through the use of psychotropic drugs of his manic-depression, he loses his will to write. His son had been an integral part of the writing process and when that part of his father's life is over, he feels betrayed. Their relationship is destroyed and the boy, now the psychiatrist, is seeking to come to grips with his unresolved pain. Gabriel is convinced that Zachary has come to rescue him from his enemies and draws him back into the fantasy world. The climax comes when Zachary must either choose between the realities or try to integrate them. The ending is logical and works, but it's too easy. Zachary takes his stand and the world accommodates itself, no problem. The ending should have been edgier. They should have had to work at it more. It is unsatisfying but everything that has gone before is is quite good. There is some high-powered talent at work here among the supporting character actors and they alone make it worthwhile.
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Stellar cast and a beautiful tale
movieduderino22 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To be honest, I did not know anything about the film before I watched it. Because of the title and the DVD's cover I figured it would be a nice little "Princess Bride" meets "Stardust" feature. Well, I liked both and I really fancy the spirit of Sir Ian Mckellen. So I watched it. Since then I do not understand why critics and reviewers pan this film. I thought it had an incredible cast. Aaron Eckhart made me believe that he actually was this son who was looking for closure. Sir Ian McKellen was brilliant as a maybe traumatized and over-institutionalized old man who is very clever and creative, but somehow broken deep within. The very sexy Jessica Lange is an asset for every production - and again she pulled it off. She actually kind of reminded me of my own mother and her way to talk to me. For sure she creates a very distinct atmosphere and it seemed quite authentic how her character still mourned. William Hurt does not know how to disappoint, so he does not and gives a very subtle quiet performance which suits his role perfectly. Well, some people may find that Brittany Murphy is a bit over the top - I am SO partial and just thought that she was gorgeous. More importantly the story of the film was very intriguing to me. It almost seemed like a suspenseful thriller - I did not move, all my attention was drawn to the screen. Furthermore I thought that the idea was great that the therapist has his own issues and comes to that hospital to work on those very issues. And he cannot escape it. I liked the idea of the book - I always liked those kind of children's tales and there are so many of them and they are all beautiful! But in the end this film only works so well because of the great actors - not to forget Mr. Nolte - who create very vivid characters one can relate to. And as the story unfolds I felt for all those people because they did not seem like some fabrication but like people I know with their very same problems. If you cannot find anything about this film what you might like - just think about that: Beneath every great and honest piece of art you may find a little pain, a strong agony, a disturbing and unsolvable traumatic event hidden deep deep down. And that might be why this person does these great and beautiful things - if you like to get to know someone, you might take a look what is really going on....
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An enjoyable flick
SteveC-524 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If you don't like emotional films, then don't watch 'Neverwas'. If you have no tolerance for more than zero plot holes, then don't watch 'Neverwas.' (For that matter, don't watch any movie.) If you don't like the underdog triumphing, then don't watch 'Neverwas.' If you do like any of these, then 'Neverwas' is a must see. Ian McClellan was superb as the man who would be king (again).

I knew nothing about this movie until Netflix popped this up as "We think you might enjoy this movie based on your ratings of other movies you liked." I am certainly glad it did.

I agree with one other comment I read here: The music left a lot to be desired. It didn't fit the tone of the movie.

Also, the DVD was dated as a 2005 release date, but the two previews on the DVD were both for movies being released in 2007 (one of the Underdog coming out shortly). Odd.

The plot could go two ways: 1) Neverwas existed and the king would lead the doctor to it, or 2) Neverwas existed only in the mind of the children's book author and its readers.

Enjoyably enough the movie decided to do a third way: 3) A combination of 1 and 2.
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A young psychiatric therapist is assigned to a mental facility where his father was once a patient.
kractor112 September 2005
This is a GREAT movie! It will put Joshua Michael on the map, so to speak. Ian Mckellan is his usual fantastic self, and William Hurt, Alan Cumming are fantastic in it also. Michael Moriarty is back on screen after his hiatus, and captivates completely. Cynthia Stevenson and Vera Farmiga are absolutely superb. All these great actors are playing patients in an insane asylum, as well as Ken Roberts, who plays Terrence - a surprisingly poignant performance. Mr. Roberts and the script should be nominated. This film is a bright surprise and a must-see! Kudos all around, especially for Joshua Michael Stern, whose script is the best surprise of all, however, as he intertwines pathos, comedy and the human condition into a captivating, sometimes gripping work. This will go down as one of those "Good old movies"
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Not so live from the Toronto International Film Festival
stimpil19 September 2005
This movie has lots of potential, directed by first-time (well, first feature film at least) director Joshua Stern, and starring big names like Jessica Lange, Nick Nolte, Aaron Eckhart, Brittany Murphy, Alan Cumming, Sir Ian McKellen, and last but DEFINITELY not least, super-awesome retired MTV VJ Bill Bellamy. Oh, and there was this other guy William Hurt that the organizers seemed to make a big deal of but nobody really clapped when they said his name so I'm guessing he's not that important.

The story is about a psychiatrist whose father committed suicide after writing a highly acclaimed and much beloved children's book, Neverwas. He returns to the asylum where his father was once treated to find a job, in hopes of really helping the patients. Once there, he learns some interesting things about his father's story.

The movie overall was good, but it has some significant flaws. There is a love story that is totally unnecessary and contributes nothing to the story uncomfortably wedged in, but that's Hollywood for you. There are also some pretty significant plot holes, and there are many things in the story that aren't really explained very well, and are sort of left to the audience to guess how exactly they happened. Overall, I'd recommend it, but you don't need me to tell you that, because it will more than likely do great at the box office this year. Plus, there's a good chance that Sir Ian McKellen will be nominated for an Oscar this year for his role as Crazy Guy #4, because everybody knows the quickest way to an Oscar nomination is to either gain 50 lbs for a role, play a retard, or play a crazy person.

Afterward, the director answered a few audience questions (which were mostly mundane and asinine), but the highlight was definitely when Nick Nolte (who looked like a Halloween costume and was quite possibly slightly drunk), stumbled up to the microphone to answer a question. He went on and on about what he had for breakfast that day and how when he was a kid he used to fight giants with magic laser beams and whatever the hell else Nick Nolte talks about, I really couldn't understand what he was saying.

All in all, more enjoyable than not.
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Loved the score!
kennethd-14 August 2007
I thought one of the best things about this film was its score. Philip Glass is no second rate composer, that's for sure. And his score certainly adds richness to the film. I'd never heard of the film until I saw it offered on DVD. And after watching it I was amazed by some of the very negative reviews from film critics when it was originally released. The performances were all quite good, especially Sir Ian McKellan's. Looking at the cast list it seems like some of the characters were cut from the finished version. Wouldn't it be interesting to see a director's original cut of this? I really enjoyed the fantasy vs. real life theme of the film. I think we all could use a Neverwas to escape to once in awhile.
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letsroll12 April 2006
Zach Riley (Aaron Eckhart) is a talented, young psychologist/psychiatrist who returns to his hometown to work at the local mental institution. Dr. Reed, who runs the facility, is skeptical at why Dr. Riley would leave his prestigious position and join an institution that has barely a reputation. Dr. Riley visits his drunk mother and meets an old friend, a beautiful and well-played Brittany Murphy. Gabriel Finch, a reticent patient, surprisingly warms up to Dr. Riley and they begin therapy treatment, to the surprise of all. We soon learn, however, the everyone has an agenda and everyone has secrets. Dr. Riley's father was the tormented but brilliant author of a children's book, called Neverwas, with a character named after the youth Dr. Riley. The film is a dark, at times, fancy that wraps the stories of Dr. Riley, his father, and the mysterious patient Gabriel Finch together. The movie is well acted, and the bit parts are equally compelling. However, the ending isn't what you expect and I was left empty, wishing that the film had taken a different tact. Eckhart, as a vulnerable and tortured soul, is fantastic, a good turn from his egotistical / angry roles in previous films. Brittany Murphy is surprising elegant. Wait for the DVD.
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Pleasantly Surprised
lauravalerietaylor11 March 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I was really surprised by this movie. The summary of the movie itself doesn't reveal a whole lot about the plot, and I'd never seen any trailers for it. I just happened to stumble across it in movies Netflix thought I would like.

Thanks, Netflix.

From the very beginning of the story, I was hooked. I love Ian McKellen, and of course he delivered a flawless and brilliantly heartbreaking performance as Gabriel. Aaron Eckhart did a fine job of convincing me that, though he'd long since grown from Zach Small, that little boy was still in there, still vulnerable and still seeking answers to things that he didn't understand. Brittany Murphy was a surprisingly pleasant addition to the cast as Maggie, and though her screen time was limited, I thought Jessica Lange perfect for the role of Zach's haunted mother.

What I liked about this film is how it tackled the issue of mental illness. It let us into a little secret: sometimes, the best place for a mental patient is NOT in a mental hospital. Of course, there is a fine line with that notion there, but for Gabriel, the only place he was really able to thrive, was the only home he had ever known... Neverwas. And for the ending to put Gabriel exactly where he belonged was touching beyond measure.

As usual, Alan Cumming was phenomenal in his role, small though it may have been. I would have liked to see more of Vera Farmiga in her role, but as these both were side characters, it's understandable that they would have limited screen time.

Overall, I thought the film was excellent, with the right elements of several things that make a good film - depth of emotion, suspense and mystery, a little adventure, conflict that needs to be resolved. I'll definitely be watching this one again.
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'Sometimes the story finds the story teller, not the other way around.'
TxMike27 February 2015
Warning: Spoilers
As the story unfolds we wondered if it was a modern day fairy tale. Found it on Netflix streaming movies. Quite a good drama and Brittany Murphy, who met with her untimely death just a few years later, really shines.

In the opening scene we see a flashback of a boy hearing sirens and as he runs down a wooded trail stops when he encounters a man's body, hanging from a tree. We don't see the whole body but as the movie unfolds we conclude it was the boy's father, an author of a famous children's book.

Maybe 25 years later this boy is the adult, Aaron Eckhart as Zach Riley, a psychiatrist. He has a stellar background and a good practice but applies for a job at an out-of-the-way sanitarium. He keeps his motives hidden, but he never came to grips with his father's death and hopes to find some answers there, as his father was a patient there before he wrote his book.

Other key cast members are Nick Nolte as the deceased father, T.L. Pierson. Ian McKellen (who steals the show most of the time) as inmate Gabriel Finch. Brittany Murphy as Maggie Paige, a younger childhood friend of Zach's and who says she is there to do research for her Botany thesis. Jessica Lange as Zack's mom, Katherine Pierson. And always understated and good William Hurt as Dr. Peter Reed, director of the sanitarium.

The title comes from the book the father wrote, a book about a modern kingdom, "Neverwas", right over the mountains that can be seen from the sanitarium. The hero in that children's book is Zachary who goes to free the king who is held in the dungeon. In an old interview Zach is viewing, his dad at one point says to the reporter, "Sometimes the story finds the story teller, not the other way around." And that is what this movie is all about.

SPOILERS: Upon digging Zach finds out that his dad in the early 1960s was in the sanitarium along with old Gabriel Finch who is still there. Gabriel claims he is the King of Neverwas, trapped in the dungeon (the sanitarium) and he knows Zach has come back to free him. Gabriel's story is pretty much identical to dad's book 'Neverwas' which was written in the late 1960s and was basically telling the old man's story. It turns out Maggie is not a Botanist but a reporter there to do a story, but in the end she lets it rest, she and Zach begin a romance. Gabriel does manage to escape to his "kingdom" which is a shelter he built on public lands, he faces eviction, but a court order just in time saves him. For now...
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Best movie!!
Fedor Dobranravov1 April 2014
The only thing that I can say is... This movie deserves an Oscar! I watched this movie non stop! So, I Will Never Stop Watching This Movie!! I have watched it the first time and I was just paralysed! The actors in this movie are the best there is! The music and enchantment of it is just fabulous! The scenery was picked exactly! This movie took you by the soul. The most saddest part was at the end. I felt so bad for the "King" , but it still didn't end bad. It showed you a complete different way of mad people. They just believe in something. It gives you something magical. I wish this director will do another movie based on this. I think some of the mad people, are not completely mad, they just believe in something.
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Adult "Fairy Tale" with deep themes = Instant Classic
Don Lee20 August 2012
It took 7 years after it's original release for me to find this gem on a popular online movie rental site, and it instantly became one of the top-ten best movies I have seen in my 43 years.

The characters are not only believable and relatable, they make you cheer for them, truly hoping that good things happen to them after all they've been through. I was deeply moved by Sir Ian McKellen's performance, and can relate on certain levels with the world his character lived in and the reasons why. Aaron Eckhart's performance as a man seeking answers to the mysteries of his troubled youth reaches out to anyone who feels as if they've lost touch with their inner child. And Brittany Murphy, who sadly only appeared in 7 more feature roles after this film, with her consistent smile brought some much-needed relief to an otherwise hard-to-deal-with storyline.

Beyond the scope of the acting, the production was above par. Director Joshua Michael Stern gives the viewers plenty of eye-candy, with beautiful cinematography, creative camera angles, and a heart-moving score to keep ones heart in a trance whilst watching. The mystery surrounding the plot kept me further entranced as I was working out in my own mind what was real and what was fantasy (a pleasant journey similar to that of the Kevin Costner movie "Dragonfly").

This film goes to show that in life sometimes our battles are very difficult to face but there is always a place that makes us feel at ease and able to press on, whether physical or otherwise. Anyone who has experienced any type of mental illness in their family or circle of friends knows that this subject is a serious one, and Neverwas deals with it carefully, and with the utmost of sincerity.
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