Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams
Released by: Magnolia Pictures
Run time: 112 minutes
by Alain Gayot
Writer/director Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line) is a cinema pioneer. His unique directing style is evident in his newest release “To the Wonder,” in which he ignores theatrical conventions to create an abstract slideshow of romance and drama with sparse dialogue.
The film begins with a romantic scene at Mont Saint-Michel in France, after Neil (Ben Affleck), an American from a small town in Oklahoma, meets and falls in love with Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a beautiful Ukranian divorcee living in Paris. Neil invites Marina and her ten-year-old daughter, Tatiana, to return to Oklahoma with him, where he takes a job as an environmental inspector. As the scenery shifts from the ancient abbey in Normandy to a diner in Oklahoma, reality begins to settle in. While Marina adapts to her new life in America, the passion of newfound love fades and issues arise with Tatiana.
As the couple slowly drifts apart, Marina befriends a Catholic priest played by Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem. Bardem delivers an outstanding performance as Father Quintana who is experiencing a crisis of faith. Like Marina, he’s beginning to wonder what he’s doing in that small town. Marina eventually decides to move back to France with her daughter when her visa expires.
Neil then rekindles a romance with Jane (Rachel McAdams), an old flame, until he discovers that Marina has fallen on hard times. After another trip to France, he feels obligated to try to make things work with Marina, and brings her back to America without her daughter. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work out, and their same problems return.
The movie is a puzzle of sound bites and images that don’t always match up, but these are the kinds of details that set Malick’s style apart from the rest. The film deals with love in its many stages – passion, sympathy, obligation, sorrow and indecision – set to a soundtrack of classical music and a slideshow of beautiful images. While we don’t expect it to win any Oscars, “To the Wonder” is a well-executed, “artsy” film that will please some and bore others.
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