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TO THE WONDER (review)

Review by Caitlyn Thompson
Produced by Nicolas Gonda, Sarah Green 
Written and Directed by Terrence Malick 
Starring Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, 
Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem

Magnolia Pictures / Studio Canal / Rated R
You have to understand that you can’t review this movie with the same rubric you would an action movie or RomCom. 
It’s not a production that can be easily labeled. The category most fitting would be visual poetry.  
To the Wonder is an amalgam of moments, of feelings, of streams of consciousness. Dialogue is scarce if nonexistent. 
The tone remains consistent guided along with a beautiful and emotionally charged score. 
The film gives us glimpses of love, the joy of feeling completely ravished, infatuated, romantic, and supported, while also consumed, confused, tortured, controlled, and lost within it. 
Like I said, a poem of emotions.

Olga Kurylenko drives home these raw feelings with her gorgeous smile and large eyes, while Ben Affleck is stoic and mute. Contrasting the intense passion of Kurylenko is Rachel McAdams whose naiveté and charm are endearing while heartbreaking. Alongside these intertwined lovers is a priest, played solemnly by Javier Bardem, who inspires sympathy in his struggles with his faith.


The trailer of the movie is a bit misleading. It gives the impression that To the Wonder is about a love triangle, and new love versus old love. But it’s not. It’s about actual love. Love manifesting from passion, history, environment. Abandoning love when it hardens and reveals only pain. Sickening love that creates burning and insanity and somehow evolves into hate. It’s passionate, it’s complicated, and it’s hard to depict. But it is actually what the film is about rather than a formulaic romantic love story.

Terrence Malick uses his trademark swarming, ever zooming camera movements and cropped shots to emphasize the dreamlike quality of his subjects. The audience is not supposed to be a coolly analytical voyeur. Viewers are immersed in the emotions, in the minds, the heartache and the passion of the characters. The beautifully soft and heartfelt voiceovers hypnotically pull you closer to their thoughts. The movie demands some careful listening and reading as the voiceovers are in French and Spanish.

It’s not a film that displays a traditional, three-act plot. There are dramatic moments and occasionally some implied closure. The film can best be described as emotional journey of love through guilt, envy, happiness, and depression.

The best way to assess the film is how it makes you feel. Be engrossed or just listen to the score. I think the actors did their part splendidly in To the Wonder and the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki was beautifully choreographed and executed. Malick presents something different.

Thankfully, it was not spliced with external material (i.e. cosmos and dinosaurs) as Tree of Life was.

Malick stays internal, and gives us questions about faith, fidelity and the swift ache or elation that our dedication to love can produce.

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