Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Nate's Picks- To The Wonder

To The Wonder (2012)
Dir. Terrence Malick
D.P. Emmanuel Lubezki
Romantic Drama (R), Magnolia Pictures

Poster for To The Wonder (Magnolia Pictures)

About the film (from Magnolia Pictures):

"To The Wonder is a romantic drama about men and women grappling with love and its many phases and seasons - passion, sympathy, obligation, sorrow and indecision - and the way these forces merge together and apart, transforming, destroying and reinventing the lives they touch.  Starring Ben Afleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem, this deeply moving visual film intermingles love, nature and spirit.  'All things work together for the good.'"

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Nate's thoughts:

What an amazingly tender piece of film art. Viewers of Malick's work are usually polar opposites, some love him, some hate him. I happen to love him. If you're looking for a typical romantic drama, with a typical plot then this film might frustrate you. But if you enjoy beautifully inspired cinematography, elliptical editing and contemplative meditations on life, love and existentialism then this film will delight. Is this Malick's best film? No, but it's a great addition to this auteur's catalog. In many ways To The Wonder feels like an addition or continuation of the world created in TheTree of Life (Malick's previous film) but more focused on love and the lack thereof...  The story is loosely based on Malick's own life which is a pleasant reward because he has been rather elusive as a filmmaker and never gives interviews.

The performances here are top notch.  Many viewers criticized Afleck's performance calling it  "life-less."  But I think they prematurely judged his character's shift.  While watching it take notice of how when Neil (Afleck) is in Paris and in love with Marina (Kurylenko) he is happy and laughing and more, "free."  It's not until he returns to the U.S., returns to his job and his normal humdrum existence that he becomes removed, stoic and maybe even depressed and shut-off towards Marina.  All-the-while Marina remains nymph-like, free spirited and joyous until she absolutely feels abandoned by her lover and decides to act upon it.  Each scene Kurylenko is in she is breathtakingly lovely.  

Rachel McAdams' "Jane" is an interesting character in that the viewers are left to fill in many of the pieces about her obviously broken past.  The interactions between her and Neil seem like moments caught before the "big" stuff- such as awkward glances, when they are testing the waters of their blossoming romance.  It's truly powerful drama.

And who doesn't love Javier Bardem?  This time as a priest is a nice change of pace for the actor.  He struggles through his priesthood while questioning the existence of God.  My only complaint would be that I wanted even more of his character throughout the story.  He's fantastic!

Malick is a filmmaker creating art rather than turning out cheap and boring cookie-cutter Hollywood stories. He realizes the power of image, sound, dialog and theme and uses them to create feelings rather than straight beginning, middle and end stories. So if you're in the mood to really experience deep emotions and be swept away into the minds of lovers then pop it in your player or watch it on Netflix.

I recommend the Blu-ray version- the transfer is beautiful. Wish there were even more behind-the-scenes extras but the extras that are included do shed some light into the process of creation. I do hope The Criterion Collection will do their own version with more supplemental material and the great cover art and essays.

Nate's Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)



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