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To The Wonder

To The Wonder

In Theatres: 
Apr 12, 2013
Running Time: 
1 Hour, 52 Minutes

Not unlike many fellow Americans, Neil (Ben Affleck) decides to escape the real world by traveling overseas. While in Europe, Neil visits Paris, where he ultimately meets and falls head over heels for the lovely Marina (Olga Kurylenko). Residing in Paris, divorcee' Marina takes care of her 10 year old daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline). After confirming their newfound love for each other in Mont St. Michel (an island near Normandy), Neil and Marina take their relationship to the next level by moving in together at Neil's house in Oklahoma. With the three all living together in Oklahoma, Neil seeks out new work while Marina and Tatiana adjust to their new lives with Neil. But with an old flame (Rachel McAdams) and a fellow foreigner with a crisis (Javier Bardem), trouble finds it's way into this blossoming romance and tests the boundaries of Neil and Marina's love.

In Terrence Malick's newest film, To The Wonder, we see the definite qualities that make Malick a brand name: Breathtaking scenery, soaring cameras over vast locations, limited dialogue and various levels of depth. Malick is known for these factors and this brings the loyal fans back from his previous cinematic experience, The Tree of Life. I, personally, couldn't find the appeal in Malick's lack of narrative, seeing it more as an attempt at branding oneself than an actual art form. Or a useful one, at that. To my surprise, even that little of dialogue was too much for Malick.

To The Wonder is practically a silent film, relying solely on the imagery and scenery to convey the story and meaning. Yes, Malick knows how to shoot imagery and compliments it beautifully on camera, but this doesn't help the pacing of the story. The plot of To The Wonder can be explained and decoded in 10 minutes, easily. It feels less like a beautiful art form and more of a gimmick. It is in Malick's trademarks that he loses grip on his story and visits a world that surely means much more to him (rumors are that this, much like The Tree of Life, was a personal project based on his previous endeavors).

Granted, this doesn't mean To The Wonder is all flaw. It is indeed a beautifully shot film and one that will divide audiences based on their romantic past. Anyone who can relate to the growth and loss of love the way that Neil and Marina do will find more to respond to than someone who has never experienced that level of heartbreak. Much like The Tree of Life, it's a film that will attempt to appeal to the personal stories of the audience. And it's ironic that To The Wonder is, on paper, a much more relatable story to major audiences than one of a distant father but doesn't seem to connect as much as his previous work does. It just doesn't seem to click.

Malick has an eye for breathtaking camerawork and shows it off with great strength, but To The Wonder relies too heavily on personal experiences and almost non-existant narrative and falls too far to attract mainstream audiences for more than half an hour. I understand and appreciate the notoriety behind Malick's trademark. It's just a shame that it doesn't help keep To The Wonder to the potential it carried.

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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