Behn Zeitlin gives away Montserrat’s best kept secret in his new movie Wendy, which screened on Sunday evening at the Montserrat Cultural Centre.
Primarily shot on Montserrat in 2017, the movie is Zeitlin’s follow up to his Oscar-nominated Beast of the Southern Wild. If you have seen Beast then you can imagine that the young director does not follow the traditional storytelling model of popular films and part of me wish he had so that some parts did not seem such a struggle to get through.
The almost two-hour film gets off to a very slow start and from a local perspective, you are waiting for Peter Pan to show up to take the children away from their dreary life around a diner in New Orleans, so you can find the people who made the film who you know and the locations he used.
Once Pan, played by young Antigua Yashua Mack shows up and takes the children for a magical ride on a train, we see a once iconic fixture of Woodlands Beach being part of the journey to get to Neverland…I won’t give it away but look for it.
The first sighting of Montserrat which has become Neverland, I had the same feeling that often catches me when approaching the island by air. The director of photography does the island justice in every way and it is clear that he ably captures Zeitlin’s love for the island.
The movie was shot on island, Antigua and Barbuda, Mexico and New Orleans. All of the land scenes were shot on island. Antigua’s coastline and corals are used for a few scenes. The underwater cave scenes were shot in Mexico.
The children in Neverland were annoying and any old school Caribbean parent would have been looking for a switch to get them to hush up or promptly send them off to bed without any supper. They screamed endlessly and it was often difficult to understand what they were saying. This is a problem Mack had in his role as Peter Pan. It served to make you dislike him even more and hoping Wendy does get her wish of taking her brothers back to reality. He looked the part on film but I couldn’t connect with his Pan.
So what’s the secret that Zeitlin gives away? It is not the legend of Runaway Ghaut and the promise that those who drink from it will return. By turning Montserrat into Neverland with the contrasts of a lush green youthful space and the abandoned town of Plymouth and the Exclusion Zone representing what happens when you worry, he reminds us that we all have the power to stay as young as we want to be if we remain in paradise but also that we learn to live, love and laugh.