Starring: Olga Kurylenko, Rachel MacAdams, Javier Bardem, Ben Affleck
Tree of Life was a hard act to follow. Personally, I found that film to be a modern masterpiece. To The Wonder was sure to fall short of that, but it fell quite short in general. The film takes a dull, somber tone throughout and really goes nowhere for its length.
The story follows the paths of two lovers (Ben Affleck & Olga Kurylenko) struggling through a relationship twice. Along Somewhere in there a priest (Javier Bardem) desperate for evidence of God's existence. That's pretty much it.
I'm going to start with some good here. Olga Kurylenko is quite good here. I really have enjoyed her improvement from movie to movie. She's proving more than a pretty face with each role. Malick might have captured the midwest better than any film I have seen before. This felt real, genuine and small town. The architecture, the houses, building, neighborhood and the parade really feel like places I have been before here in Indiana. Aside from our leads, the surrounding townsfolk look right off the street.
On the downside, the film really give nothing and makes me wonder what I was supposed to get out of it. And unlike most Malick films, i think this one was pretty straightforward. I don't really feel I need to view this one multiple times to find some deeper meaning (let me know if there is one). Some of the characters actions and motivations I don't follow to well, but maybe that's because I'm not getting much. Ben Affleck's Neil character is said to be a quiet, soft spoken, noncommittal man, but I need to be given more than just him saying 5 total lines of dialogue throughout the film. I can understand that Malick may be wanting us to be in the shoes of Marina (Kurylenko) and Jane (Rachel MacAdams), but he's giving us absolutely nothing from this character. Just some shots of him working and after he's apparently said something upsetting. If that's your game, Malick, then I was just as frustrated as your female leads. But it also hurts not knowing where his anger or his lack of committal is coming from.
On the other side of this story wanders a Javier Bardem's Father Quintana. Who we see disinterested in his job and forcing himself to help the poor in this small town. I thought his story may come to some sort of fruition (an affair, some form of closure in his God search), but alas no. He shares a scene or two with our leads, but that's it.
I wasn't bored with To The Wonder, I just thought it was going somewhere. That's the big disappointment after it all. The film looks great (as does all Malick's work) so that's worth a watch on its own, but I just don't know what's being conveyed here other than what's on the table. This film apparently also at one time had Rachel Weisz, Michael Sheen, Amanda Peet and Barry Pepper in it. I have no clue where they would have fit in. There's really no room or feeling that something is missing anywhere. This story had to have been pieced together in the editing room differing from whatever the intent was when it was shooting. This is definitely lower tier Terrence Malick. Maybe it was too soon after Tree of Life?
To The Wonder is in theaters and on Video OnDemand