To the Wonder (2012)
It just wouldn’t be a Terrence Malick premiere without a divided audience, one half cheering ecstatically while the other group claps a bit less enthused. At the Toronto International Film Festival this past year, To the Wonder was perceived by some of its viewers to be choppy and disengaging while others found it vibrant, full of artistry, and undeniably heartfelt. I was in attendance and was in the latter category. To the Wonder is a respectable follow up to The Tree of Life proving that Malick’s sudden splurge into rapid filmmaking hasn’t hampered his abilities. Starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Olga Kurylenko, and Javier Bardem, To the Wonder has plenty of talent to showcase both on and off screen. As with most Malick films, the sparse dialogue and his infatuation with letting the visuals do the talking might discourage even the most avid filmgoer.
Upon visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina (Kurylenko) and Neil (Affleck) return to Oklahoma where Marina has trouble adapting to her new lifestyle. Marina confides in Father Quintana (Bardem) who is struggling with his religion and faith in humanity. While Neil and Marina continue to distance from one another, Jane (McAdams), a childhood friend of Neil’s enters the picture. As Neil and Jane become closer, Marina fades out of Neil’s life and he is left trying to recoup their relationship.
A bit more structured than Malick’s past endeavours, the intertwining tales in To the Wonder much like The Tree of Life criss cross the limitations of faith, family, and fate. The themes and scenarios might be too diagnostic and preachy for some, but To the Wonder knows its message and subtly displays it in beauty and strength. After viewing To the Wonder at its TIFF premiere, I was taken back by Olga Kurylenko’s performance. She is weightless as she drifts in and out of her characters own importance as it clashes with her daughters, trying to live her life while still doing right by her child. Ben Affleck, Kurylenko’s other half is primal and compassionately segmented between love and reality. McAdams and Bardem, while scarcely used are scene stealers whenever they do hit the screen. Malick doesn’t miss a beat in directing To the Wonder even though it is the fastest consecutive film he has ever completed. To the Wonder is transcendent, illuminating, and bold, a must see for fans of Malick and cast.
To the Wonder: 8.5 out of 10.