To the Wonder (2013) (R)
Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" is defiantly plot-less, much like his last cosmic effort "The Tree of Life". His last feature dealt with love, loss, family, and the much loved recurring theme of 'nature versus grace'. "To the Wonder" is much more about love and relationships than anything else. But "To the Wonder" sets itself apart by asking questions and then not answering them—intentionally, I might add. These questions are vast and immeasurable and yet can be condensed into such a slight word as why?
Malick's favorite themes pop back up but only in little ways: loss, the essence of maternity, and (again) a dual nature in people. His favorite techniques are used as well: the stunning cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, the nature shots, and the whispered voice overs.
The natural world has always played a large part in Malick's movies. Recall the scenes of the waving wheat fields in "Days of Heaven" or the exquisite cries of the jungle in "The Thin Red Line"...it all culminated in "The Tree of Life" which left no doubt that Malick sees something different in nature than the rest of us. It's extraordinarily hard to recreate the beauty of the natural world on screen but Malick does it, time and time again.
"To the Wonder" could be a silent film, the lack of dialogue is staggeringly impressive. If it was just the voice overs, the movie would still work.
When researching the film, I saw that the main characters have names, but thinking back, I don't remember any names (besides one) ever being used in the movie. It's much like an updated version of "Sunshine: A Song of Two Humans". In the 1927 movie, the main characters aren't given names and I feel that it's the same way with "To the Wonder".
So let's be honest—"To the Wonder" is a beautiful film. But is it hollow? Many people seem to think so...but I wasn't one of them.
"To the Wonder" is about life—a daunting undertaking; but I think that in the end...it was successful.
The cast that Terrence Malick employs includes Ben Affleck and Rachel McAdams; but the real stars are Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko in a breakout performance.
The characters are going through life, trying to grasp at a meaning. There's a priest, who's questioning his God. There's a woman, questioning about the nature of love. And there's a man, questioning his relationships.
It's the popular thought that demands a rational explanation for everything seen on screen. Malick purposely doesn't give answers—I think I said that before...but it bears repeating.
It's not Malick's finest work—I still think that "The Thin Red Line" has that honor; but it is enigmatically beautiful. It's not for everyone, but for those who liked "The Tree of Life"—you will like this as well.
Score: 3 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones