“Sometimes we need to believe in a little magic, especially when there’s so much pain.”
The major selling point of the film is Deakins’ relationship with Underwood, which is touching, but leaves one with too many questions left unanswered about Underwood’s situation and supposed special abilities. His character is referred to as “autistic”, but doesn’t necessarily display characteristic signs of this, instead apparently suffering from selective mutism and emotional disturbance after his parents’ untimely death. (Could this gaffe be a function of autism only recently being better understood?) Meanwhile, his alcoholic caretaking uncle (Fred Gwynne, playing his role as a caricature) claims to have seen his nephew fly, but he’s clearly about as unreliable a witness as one could muster. Underwood’s number one fan appears to be a kind and understanding English teacher (Colleen Dewhurst), but her role is severely underwritten, and we never understand exactly how or why she’s come to play such a critical part in his welfare.
Eventually, writer/director Nick Castle chooses to turn Underwood’s situation into an actual fantasy rather than an exploration of his troubled inner fantasy-life, which may have thrilled audiences at the time (the special effects enhance the film’s romantic potential) but is ultimately the less satisfying choice. While I hate to be a grinch, I can’t agree with Peary’s assessment of this one as a Personal Recommendation.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments: