Terrence Malick returns and takes us ‘To The Wonder’
Starting at the Varsity Cineplex Odeon this week is the latest from prolific and polarizing filmmaker Terrence Malick, To The Wonder. After decades where Malick was silent and not producing film his recent efforts have come in bunches with To The Wonder and Tree of Life only a year apart and Malick currently working on 3 projects all due by end of year 2014. To The Wonder has Malick pondering love and faith, and the loss of both of them.
To The Wonder
Written and Directed by Terrence Malick
Neil (Affleck) is an American traveling in Europe who meets and falls in love with Marina (Kurylenko), a Ukrainian divorcée who is raising her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana in Paris. The lovers travel to Mont St. Michel, the island abbey off the coast of Normandy, basking in the wonder of their newfound romance. Neil makes a commitment to Marina, inviting her to relocate to his native Oklahoma with Tatiana. Yet after a holding pattern, their relationship cools. Marina finds solace in the company o, f another exile, the Catholic priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), who is undergoing a crisis of faith. Work pressures and increasing doubt pull Neil further apart from Marina, who returns to France with Tatiana when her visa expires. Neil reconnects with Jane (Rachel McAdams), an old flame. They fall in love and are determined to stay together, until Neil learns that Marina has fallen on hard times.
To The Wonder is more like an epic poem about love, loss and faith than a film. Full of stunning visuals, the film is a meandering and unfocused plot that contemplates theme over structure. Kurylenko’s Marina represents the ‘ideal’ woman, idolized for her beauty and positive outlook, but also childlike and innocent in ways. She represents the spouse that men and women have fallen for over and over because of these traits, and because they feel they can change them into someone else. Even Marina’s daughter knows this relationship is doomed from the beginning. Whereas McAdams’ Jane is the person who Affleck’s Neal should stay with because their love is unconditional, but when the exotic Marina needs Neil back he turns away from the love he’s earned for the love he feels he deserves. Meanwhile, Bardem’s Father Quintana, in a completely parallel yet separate story struggles with the loss of his faith in god every day, and whether he should instruct people when he believes less than they do.
The performances are solid here, though they also follow into the pattern of more poem than traditional narrative as the use of voice over is quite heavy in the film. Bardem’s performance is almost 100% voice over as we see his interactions with his congregation and townsfolk but hear only his doubt and prayer in voice over on top of these actions. Affleck may actually have the least dialogue even though he is clearly the center of the film. Kurylenko is quite good as Marina, her innocence lost along the way as she gets lost and commits a terrible act. McAdams is also quite good here as the hard working and deeply in love Jane, heartbroken after Neil leaves her behind.
Sprawling and epic in picture and imagery, yet compact and insular in plot and story, To The Wonder is very Malick in nature. That is to say, To The Wonder will frustrate many delight others. Malick’s hand in storytelling and film as usual is wrapped up in the visuals he creates and the poetic nature that envelopes the story. Methodical in pace and somber in tone, To The Wonder is not an easy watch, but the film will reward those who make it through the journey.
Till Next Time
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- To The Wonder Review (Paolo Kagaoan) (entertainmentmaven.com)