Movie Review: To the Wonder
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olg Kurylenko, and Rachel McAdams
Plot: An American falls for a French woman and brings her back to America.
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.
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.
What to Watch: Derek Cianfrance’s nonlinear look at how easy it is to fall in and out love, Blue Valentine.
Good review man. It’s a beautiful film, but not much else underneath the surface than that. It can be heartfelt at times, but also feels like overkill on the constant images of people twirling and playing in grass-fields.
Yea well that’s the nature of abstract art right. It’s meaningful to one while it’s beautiful nonsense to another. I think this movie is the perfect representation of that. It’ll inevitably split people just like tree of life. That is for damn sure.
Great review. I gave the film a perfect rating, but yours will suffice. I just so happened to watch this film last night, having waited so long. The Tree of Life is one of my favorite films of all time, and while To the Wonder wasn’t quite as good, it still stirred so many emotions inside me that I was able to sit down, forget everything else, and enjoy this pleasant experience.
I have a habit of meticulously rating the movies I’ve watched. To be frank, I was troubled after watching ‘To the Wonder’. Sure, it is a good movie, but did it triumph in driving across the message in a powerful way? As powerful as the one ‘Tree of Life’ did? I don’t know. But then again, I’m forced to wonder if these movies can be compared with each other.
‘Tree of Life’ and ‘To the Wonder’ are those kind of movies that injects its meaning deep into our subconscious, only to be revived in our dreams.
Great review by the way!