New Release Review - To the Wonder

Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams, Romina Mondello

A trans-Atlantic couple struggle with their relationship.

Neil (Affleck), an introspective engineer, moves his French girlfriend Marina (Kurylenko) and her daughter from Paris to his Oklahoma hometown. Marina wants to wed but, as a divorcee, she is unable to marry in a Catholic church and so applies for dispensation. When her visa runs out, she reluctantly leaves Neil to return home to France. In her absence, Neil reconnects with Jane (McAdams), a woman he knew in his youth. They develop a romantic relationship which ends abruptly when Marina returns to wed Neil in a civil ceremony. Seeing the church as responsible for keeping the couple apart, local priest Father Quintana (Bardem) begins to question his faith.
Unimpressed with his exceptionally intermittent filmography, I never understood the hype around Malick. His films looked beautiful of course but they never connected with me. His latest two works, 'The Tree of Life' and 'To the Wonder', conversely, have hit me on a gut level, two of the greatest experiences I've had in a cinema over the last few years. Ironically, I seem to have fallen for Malick at the same point most have grown frustrated with him. I find it remarkable how anyone who appreciates cinema couldn't be moved by these two movies but I guess, in an era when even comic book heroes have to be "dark" figures, modern audiences have become too cynical for a worldview as optimistic and simple as Malick's. If you want a film that makes you think, look elsewhere. This is cinema that makes you feel.
Some viewers will complain about 'To the Wonder'. They'll complain about the lack of dialogue (Affleck speaks no more than two full sentences). They'll complain about the lack of plot. Those viewers should stick to soap operas rather than venturing out to the movie theater. Stay at home in front of your T.V where you can't bother anyone with your constant texting, your constant reaffirmation of your self-importance. You couldn't possibly appreciate this film with it's central theme that, cast against the might of nature, we are all individually meaningless, because you believe you're somehow above everyone else. That's what allows you the ignorance of ruining other film-goers enjoyment with the incessant tapping of your glowing touchscreen. The rest of us actually enjoy being swept away by a screen that engulfs us, not one small enough to hold in our hands.
So what exactly is 'To the Wonder' all about? That's for you to decide. Don't worry about misinterpreting it. Great cinema is like a glance from a beautiful woman; even when misread it stirs the heart. Cast off your cynicism, turn off your smartphone, and bask in the wonder.
9/10
To the Wonder (2012) on IMDb 6.8/10


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