Childhood: A Wonderland?

by becomingbethany

I saw a great independent film this evening, Phoebe in Wonderland.  It is about a little girl who is different and has trouble conforming to society’s idea of a well-adjusted child.  She finds her home in theater as that is the only place where she feels free to express her imagination and creativity openly.

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The cinematography was well done.  It did a great job of evoking the mood of the various environments where this little girl is living–home, school, the theater, and Wonderland.  The acting was superb.  Elle Fanning displays the same maturity in her role that her older sister, Dakota, has become famous for.  Felicity Huffman, Bill Pullman, Patricia Clarkson, and young Bailee Madison all consistently hit their emotional beats.  Every character feels so real.  Her father, mother, little sister, her drama teacher, her principal–all feel vaguely like you’ve met them before.

The film poses some great questions.  The various themes are all evident but not overstressed.  One of the biggest themes that struck me was the question of when is a child just being a child and when do they need psychological help?  It was great to see a film that did not over-romanticize childhood.  Too often, films about childhood make it look like this idyllic state that we should never have left behind.  Granted, childhood does have those moments, but it also has a lot of bullies, and confusion, and painful moments of growing up.  Phoebe finds herself retreating more and more into her “Wonderland” when life becomes too difficult for her to handle.  And how well can she work through her conflicting moments?  She’s nine years old!  Her parents don’t know how much to give her the freedom to imagine and be creative and when it is time to find her help.  I won’t give away the end of the story because you all really need to go see it!  It will hopefully be released in September!

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