Review: To The Wonder
Having moved with her daughter and boyfriend from her home in France to Oklahoma in the prairies of the United States, the beautiful and passionate Marina turns wistful and longing. As the couple looks to adapt to a different lifestyle, they encounter a priest equally yearning for hope, as Marina meets a fellow immigrant and her boyfriend reunites with a past friend.
Who’s in It?
Olga Kurylenko is incandescent as the free-spirited Marina, while Ben Affleck plays her torn, stoic boyfriend Neil. Javier Bardem is the town priest, and Rachel McAdams plays a sooner farm girl in Jane.
A romantic, lyrical journey in search of amorphous love and meaning in life, Terrance Malick’s evocative and at times esoteric portrait is filled with longing that is both suffocating and moving. There are no actual song and dance numbers, but Marina twirls and moves like a ballerina, whether it on the beaches of Normandy or the fields of Oklahoma. The camera turns with her, catching her hair blowing in the sun, espying a glimpse of her smile just as she turns away, and swooping along the ground to capture a sprawling sky behind her.
A courtship in France between her and Neil is magical, and Marina’s restlessness finds her easily traveling to America with her 10-year-old daughter, and starting a very different life in the prairieland.
The ‘wonder’ is as different for her as it is for Neil, just as it is for a local disheartened priest and a lonely farmer. None of the characters may know exactly what ‘it’ is; they just know they don’t have it and continue to move in the direction they think it lies; they are ‘chasing moonbeams,’ as Marine puts it. Everything in the movie is restless.
Marina wants love, both passionate and everlasting. Neil, an environmental inspector with a home and a truck and a set way of life, seems to seek something more stable. Father Quintana, played with a heavy heart by Bardem, does his work alone in a town that doesn’t want him, and seems too far gone to save. He seeks a sign from God that he has made the right commitment, just as Marina’s leap of faith needs to be validated. Each of the four characters gets their time to reflect to the audience, Marina primarily, and it could be there is more voiceover in the film than actual dialogue.
They settle into ennui, unable to maintain a sense of excitement and purpose, and each comes and goes, physically, mentally, and emotionally, as both Marina and Neil find that strangers come and go as well.
Malick is dedicated to his flowing, musical style, staying consistent throughout, focusing on the luminous Kurylenko, and rightly so. It’s a beautiful song of a film, and despite pretense, the subject matter is truly universal and compelling. It is a vision of the lives of many it would seem, even if these characters are more metaphor than real.
Should You See It?
See it, experience it, and take what you wish from it.
Father Quintana during his sermon, a selection that speaks directly to Neil. “We fear to choose…to choose is to commit yourself…The man who makes a mistake can repent. But the man who hesitates, who does nothing, who buries his talent in the Earth, with him He can do nothing.”