A couple of weeks ago we told you about my favorite movie, American Beauty, but today we tell you the story of a film from a different genre, but no less interesting: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Also because this time it is about my favorite director, the genius Tim Burton (who has one of the coolest websites of all time, check it out: http://www.timburton.com/).
The film we are dealing with today is actually one of the most recent by the American director, released in 2016, just today September 30, and is an adaptation of the 2011 novel of the same name, part of a saga written by Ransom Riggs.
Read on so we tell you why, in addition to the children, this film is also special!
Miss Peregrine’s Plot
Young Jacob Portman is convinced that he is an ordinary person and admires the stories that his grandfather, Abraham, tells him. Grandpa Portman, in fact, introduces Jacob to interesting stories about monsters and unusual images of peculiar and special children. As a child, Abraham recounts escaping from Nazi Germany to Cairnholm, Wales, where he lived in a home with other children under the guidance of director Miss Alma Peregrine.
One day, Jacob is interrupted at work by a call from his grandfather, who is looking for the key to the trunk containing his gun. Abraham tells Jacob that the monsters are coming for him and that he needs to protect himself. Jacob then goes to his grandfather, now dying, even though he doesn’t believe his words.
That night, hidden among the plants, Jacob sees a monster with a sprawling mouth, which confuses him: were his grandfather’s stories about monsters true? In addition, the grandfather, before expiring, further confuses Jacob with strange words: he asks him to find a “loop” and a bird on the other side of an old man’s grave.
Nobody believes Jacob’s tale of an invisible monster with tentacles. His parents then take him to Dr. Golan, a psychiatrist, who suggests that Jacob go to Wales, where his grandfather’s orphanage is located. Jacob, accompanied by his father, finds the orphanage deserted and destroyed by bombs, then seeks information from the local population, including the workers of the Cairnholm Museum.
Travel and important encounters
One day in the destroyed house, the silence is broken by the voice of a girl shouting “Abe”. Jacob finds himself chasing children across the island, until he finds a grave, the final resting place of a 16-year-old boy from long ago. He enters the tomb and re-emerges in another moment of time: exactly in 1940. (has anyone seen the TV series Dark? So no problem with time travel).
Jacob is captured by the children and brought before Miss Peregrine. The children’s home is intact and there is no evidence that a bomb has ever hit it. Miss Peregrine knows that Jacob is Abraham’s nephew and welcomes him to her home. She explains that the tomb leads to a ring (a loop), a place locked in time, which she rules. She explains that each child is unique and has a power: some can use fire, some have incredible strength, and some have prophetic dreams.
The boy finds himself lying to his father about where he goes every day, telling him that he has met people on the other side of the island. With the passing of time, Jacob gets to know Emma, who was once his grandfather’s girlfriend. The two begin to feel connected, and soon Jacob begins to wonder in which world he should stay. Jacob’s doubts deepen when another special child tells him to check out a room down the hall from the house. Inside lies a dead boy.
Jacob asks how the boy died and Emma promises to tell him one night. Together they go to visit a wreck and here Jacob’s life changes forever. Emma tells him that he is just like her grandfather and that his grandfather had the power to see monsters. Jacob has the same power.
End of the story
After discovering his power, danger looms. A new man arrives on the island and Miss Avocet, another guardian of time who can create time loops, shows up and tells Miss Peregrine that the Hollowgasts (the monsters Jacob sees) are tracking down and killing the peculiar children.
Shortly thereafter, a man disappears on the island and is discovered dead. Jacob and the children go to find out what happened and are approached by Dr. Golan and the monster with the sprawling mouth. They are trying to capture all women like Miss Peregrine, capable of altering the course of time. Doctor Golan is tasked with making these people disappear at the hands of the tentacled monster.
At the end of the story, Jacob and the other special children defeat Dr. Golan and save Miss Peregrine, who is trapped in the form of a bird. To save the other “peculiars” in other time loops, the children decide to leave together to look for the loops to stop the Hollowgasts.
Who are Miss Peregrine’s “peculiar children”?
The peculiars are a group of humans who possess a second soul. This soul manifests itself in strange ways, with abnormal characteristics and abilities commonly called peculiarities. We discover that very rarely peculiars are the children of peculiar parents, as the essence or gene of the peculiarity often skips entire generations, making the peculiar population far inferior to that of normal people.
The protagonist of the story, Jacob, has one of the most particular peculiarities, he is in fact capable of seeing monsters, which are invisible to everyone except for a very limited number of people (one is Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham). In the film, this peculiarity of Jacob is revealed to him by another peculiar person, Emma Bloom. Emma has a special talent, discovered at the age of 10. In fact, her hands become so hot that they generate fire.
Other special guys are, Millard Nullings, who can make himself invisible or Enoch O’Connor with the ability to resurrect the dead and bring back inanimate objects for a limited time using organs extracted from other living beings. How goth is this?!
In any case, it is clear that, even if in a very “monstrous” and Tim Burton way, special kids are nothing but “different” who want to be accepted, a theme very dear to the American director. Just think of Edward Scissorhands, of Willy Wonka or Dumbo. They all have something special, different, that so-called “normal” people find it hard to accept.
Production and music
The film rights to the 2011 Ransom Riggs novel were sold to 20th Century Fox in May of the same year; the book was in fact a huge success. In November of the same year, it appears that Tim Burton was already in talks to direct the film.
For the cast, on the other hand, we had to wait some time, even a few years! In 2014 Eva Green (whom we met here in Penny Dreadful) was cast to play Miss Peregrine, after also considering Mischa Barton, Lucy Hale and Alison Sudol. In the same year, Asa Butterfield was also chosen as the protagonist. Early 2015 saw Samuel L. Jackson to also the cast, in the role of Mr. Barron together withTerence Stamp, Chris O’Dowd, Rupert Everett, Kim Dickens and Judi Dench.
Although the film is set in Wales, principal photography took place in the United States, in the Tampa Bay Area. Miss Peregrine is Tim Burton’s second film shot in the Tampa Bay area, the first being Edward Scissorhands, in 1989. Production on the film later moved to Caerhays Castle and Minions in Cornwall, in Blackpool in the UK. and in Brasschaat, a municipality near Antwerp.
The soundtrack for the film is composed by Mike Higham and Matthew Margeson and was released on 11 October 2016 by La-La Land Records. Florence and the Machine recorded the film’s credits song, “Wish That You Were Here”.
Reception, sequel and themes in Miss Peregrine
At the box office Miss Peregine breaks through, even in some countries it became the greatest success of Tim Burton’s production. The film received numerous nominations, without however winning any statuettes (which were the 2020 winners? Have a look!). For example, it got nominations for the best special effects in a movie, the one for the best costumes in a fantastic movie and some for best actor and actress in a fantasy movie but he takes nothing home.
The criticisms were quite conflicting about this film, so much so that there is still discussion about the possible production of a sequel, a sort of Miss Peregrine 2.
Indeed, a sequel, titled Hollow City – The Return of Miss Peregrine’s peculiar children (Hollow City) was released on January 14, 2014, but it is the second novel in the saga of Ranson Riggs (currently the author has published 5 books and we are waiting for the 6th). The novel is set immediately after the events of the first and sees Jacob and his friends leave Miss Peregrine to go to London, defined as the “peculiar capital of the world”.
Hoping for a new chapter
Honestly, I’m hoping for a sequel, and the reasons are many. One is because if it’s set in London, I’m going to like the film for sure. The other is because Tim Burton proves to have a very “special” stylistic edge in directing the stories he tells. The last, and most important, is because the film is allegorical and symbolic. In fact, Miss Peregrine speaks of the passage of time, of the protection that every peculiar person should feel (represented by the house), of the freedom to shape one’s life and time (a recurring motif is the birds) and, as already said before, of the acceptance of the peculiarities of sensitive, different people.
That’s why this film is special, because that’s how it makes the viewer feel.