Kyle J. Steenblik

To the Wonder [Review]

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tothewonderTo the Wonder is an art film that is beautiful to behold but that is just about all.  The unexercised story was left atrophied and on life support where it was artificially kept alive until the plug was mercifully pulled after almost two hours.

To the Wonder is a 2012 written and directed by Terrence Malick, starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, and Javier Bardem.  The film premiered at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

This is where I would ordinarily explain the basic plot of the film, but for this one I cannot, not because I didn’t understand, but because it didn’t actually have a plot.  It was a collection of seemingly related stories that were so minimally developed I couldn’t even be sure there were stories to tell.  All I could really tell you is that this movie is about a relationship, or two.  Between a man, his girlfriend, her daughter, and later his new girlfriend, then back to his first girlfriend.  In addition, a priest is in there for some reason, and his story, which was the least convoluted, is the most interesting, and the most uneventful.

After the fact I did some research, and it turns out this movie didn’t really have a script, and the actors all received separate direction.  It’s interesting, to say the least.  With that in mind I can honestly say the performances were genuine (mostly because they had to be), and interesting.  Unfortunately, none of the actors were allowed to actually deliver anything resembling a fully defined character along with any form of character resolution.

As a piece of experimental and modern art, it’s very good, and it really could mean anything to anyone for any reason.  It’s abstract, and undefined, like life.  It is also a textbook foreign art film.  Every frame is an example of magnificently interesting cinematography, and deserves credit, and study by students.

I want to like this movie, but not because of what I saw when I watched.  I want to like it because of what I learned after watching it.  I felt so unfulfilled that I had to supplement the experience.  The supplemental material helped define the film, and I feel like if I had known what I know now, I might have liked this movie.  However, it doesn’t work that way, and now I’m tainted and I can’t return To the Wonder.

I give this two stars, three if I was only rating the cinematography.


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