I am reading Refractions, a treasure trove of a book filled with meditations on art, faith, America, China, and the shadows of 9/11, written by the great visual artist and advocate for the arts Makoto Fujimura. And as I was reading this morning, I discovered that it contains a beautiful chapter about Marc Forster’s film Finding Neverland. 

Forster, as a director, has made some films I enjoy and admire (Stranger Than Fiction, World War Z), some that leave me with mixed feelings (World War Z, Monster’s Ball, The Kite Runner), and a few that I don’t care to ever see again (Machine Gun Preacher, Quantum of Solace).

Refractions_coverE-380x570I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Finding Neverland, but my own review became an exhibition of my weaker tendencies as a reviewer: I wrote with haste and redundancy, and I was annoyingly long-winded.

So I was delighted to find this gem of a review, which I’m featuring as the second review in my “Looking Closer Exemplars” series, reviews that I would hold up to students as excellent examples of what film reviews can do and be. Fujimura doesn’t demonstrate any compulsion to write all of his thoughts on the film. He doesn’t make sweeping declarations as if he is the Authority on the subject. He mediates on the film’s virtues, offers a few prompts toward a critical appreciation, and then shares personal insights about how the film speaks about, and into, our own experiences. Rather than telling me what to see, he makes me want to see.

It’s a lovely review, a model to keep in mind for people who write about film, and — thank goodness — it’s online so everyone can read it.