Movie Review: To the Wonder


MalickDirected by: Terrence Malick

Starring: Ben Affleck, Olg Kurylenko, and Rachel McAdams

Plot: An American falls for a French woman and brings her back to America.

Review:

To the Wonder has so much in common with Tree of Life that it is hard not to compare them. Each of them uses the same dreamy, “out of the corner of your eye” type of cinematography and neither relies heavily on dialog. In a way, it is more like painting a picture than actually telling a story. Director Terrance Malick uses these elements to different ends though. Tree of Life used a religious experience as a metaphor for an American experience, and To the Wonder uses an American experience as a metaphor for a religiousone. The intimate relationship between Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck and, to a lesser extent, the struggle of Javier Bardem to connect with his congregation stood in for the much more intimate and complex relationship we have with our faith and God, or whatever you happen to believe in. Despite using Christian terminology, Malick definitely leaves room for his vision to encompass any existential beliefs you might have.

This seems like a very interesting challenge for the actors who are given very little substance to sink their teeth into but a huge helping of abstract emotions. I have to say, they did a fascinating job to say the least. Kurylenko spends the first half of the movie being the most adorable I have ever really seen her. Her sexuality and charm are magnetic, which makes it even harder to watch her become depressed and tired in the second half. Affleck plays a quiet man who doesn’t go above and beyond when it comes to expressing his emotions. He seems to live in the moment and rolls with the punches with ease. This clashes with Kurylenko who wears her heart on her sleeve. With the kind of acting we get in this movie, you don’t need words to figure it out. You could probably turn off the volume and still have the same experience since the emotional rollercoaster seems so clear, even if the narrative doesn’t.

Malick

McAdams only has a small role, possibly shortened by Malick’s editing

In a lot of ways To the Wonder is more abstract than Tree of Life, but it is nowhere near as surreal. It pulls at the heartstrings in a very depressing (yet engaging) way, but it doesn’t engage our imagination as well. This makes it a bit more of a chore to watch than Tree of Life, but for those willing to invest their time and attention in the movie, they will definitely be rewarded.

Rating: 8/10

What to Watch: Derek Cianfrance’s nonlinear look at how easy it is to fall in and out love, Blue Valentine.