Free Press Journal

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: Stunning Surreal Fantasy


Film: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Starring: Asa Butterfield, Eva Green, Samuel L. Jackson, Terence Stamp, Ella Purnell, Chris O’Dowd, Judi Dench, Kim Dickens, O-Lan Jones, Finlay MacMillan, Lauren McCrostie, Georgia Pemberton, Milo Parker, Pixie Davies, Jack Brody, Hayden Keeler-Stone, Raffiella Chapman

Director: Tim Burton

Roald Dahl would have approved. Tim Burton’s stunning adaptation of Ransom Riggs’ 2011 novel “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” combines the surreal and Gothic fantasy with time travel, history, and the X-Men too in a film that may be scary for small children.

Traversing the Atlantic from Florida circa 2016 to Great Britain of the wartime 1940s and back to the present day, the story takes off with principal character Jake (As a Butterfield, earnest) who is deeply affected by the death of his beloved grandfather Abe (Terence Stamp) and inexplicable events in the old man’s childhood.

Shortly thereafter, Jake’s ornithologist father Frank (Chris O’Dowd) takes the boy to recuperate on the remote Welsh island where young Abe had found refuge in an orphanage, the titular institution.

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Abe’s mysterious death had so distressed the boy, he was sent for counselling to a psychiatrist Dr Golan encourages Jake to travel to Wales where he meets the titular characters.

We see Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) gets her name from the falcon whose shape she can assume. Likewise, her young charges are endowed with paranormal abilities. Jake is convinced he is “ordinary”.

Even so, he is able to travel through a “time loop” which protects Miss Peregrine and her wards by allowing them to relive the same day, September 3, 1943 over and over again. On that day, time is stopped and reversed at precisely the moment a Nazi bomb is about to drop on the imposing mansion.

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There’s love in the time of war and after. Adolescent affection blooms in brief interactions between Jake and Emma (Ella Purnell) who can float in the air. Her jealous bro can revive the dead; one girl can start fires, another has power over nature, still another has a shark like teeth (in the back of her head) The war apart, their chief antagonist is an eyeless shape shifting scientist named Barron (Samuel L. Jackson) whose diet of the eyeballs of peculiar children restores him, bit by bit, to his original (human) state.

But Barron seeks immortality, and cares a hoot about humans. Humanity is sorely lacking in Barron and his monsters who can masquerade as humans. Clearly, this subplot is inspired by ISIS demons. But the power of peculiars can never be underestimated.

No spoilers here! In the end then, MISS PEREGRINE’S HOME FOR PECULIAR CHILDREN is about childcare, good parenting, and above all, about courage and finding yourself. The production design and special effects is top drawer as is the acting by the stellar cast, especially the children.

I wish Bond girl Green hadn’t been given a forbidding demeanour though; after all, Miss Peregrine is selfless in caring for and protecting the children. BTW, she has another Bond alumna for company, the formidable Judi Dench. Enjoy!