To the Wonder


to-the-wonder-poster

After visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina and Neil come to Oklahoma, where problems arise. Marina meets a priest and fellow exile, who is struggling with his vocation, while Neil renews his ties with a childhood friend, Jane.

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Director: Terrence Malick

Writer: Terrence Malick

Starring: Ben Afleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem

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After 2011’s Tree of Life, Terrence Malick became my favorite director, and on certain days of the week, my answer to the question “What’s your favorite movie?” will be Tree of Life. I think Roger Ebert best described my thoughts towards the movie in his review, in which he called the film “…a prayer…”. It is [so far] the pinnacle of Malick’s style and vision, and will more than likely be the measuring stick for his future films, including this one.

To the Wonder marks the beginning of a new regime for Malick. This is the shortest amount of time between movies that he has ever given, and he has three more movies slated for the next couple years. After his 20 year hiatus followed by a routine of one film every four-and-a-half years, this is very different and exciting. This is also the shortest film Malick has made in 30 years, and the only film he has ever made that is set completey in current time. While I am glad to see all these new things so quickly after Tree of Life, it shows in To The Wonder that Malcik didn’t give as much time to the film as we are used to.

Affleck and Kurylenko are our main characters in the film, and they “act” as two people in love struggling with their relationship. I put act in quotes because characters in Malick films are so different than other films. Very minimal dialogue, a huge amount of footage shot and eventually cut, the end presentation makes for a very natural result, as if these are real people in a documentary. The cast fit all the roles well. McAdams and Bardem are only in the film for a short while, and Bardem’s character only seems to be in the film to extend it to an acceptable run time. He has virtually no relation to the main characters and their story, but does help reinforce some backing themes.

The actual story of the film is based on Malick’s own experiences. He met and fell in love with a woman in Paris, married her, and moved to Texas with her. They eventually divorced and Malick reconnected with a high school sweetheart.

The movie writing is pretty flat, predictable, and non-intriguing, but it’s the presentation and the lack of detail in story in dialogue that allows the viewer to fill in the gaps with their own experiences, thoughts, and ideas. Malick and his usual cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki create such a unique and incredible visual experience that reminds me of how I see memories. The camera floats through space, following our characters like a human spectator, finding beauty in everyday scenes and objects. This paired with crisp sound recordings and some faint classical music creates a wholesome feel that lets my imagination run and really engages me in my own world while still viewing the movie for all it is.

My Rating

3/4 – The lack of time spent writing/making To The Wonder is apparent in the somewhat uninteresting story, but the classic Malick style with a new story dynamic creates an engaging, beautiful experience that allows the viewer to fill in the gaps with their own memories, experiences, and wonder.

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