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USA 2012
Directed by
Terrence Malick
112 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

To The Wonder

Terrence Malick is well known as a perfectionist director. There was a twenty year gap between Days Of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, seven years between that film and The New World. There is however only a 12 month gap between To The Wonder ,and his previous film Tree Of Life . Perhaps this escalation indicates that Malick, who is now in his seventies, is happy to make films just for himself rather history.

To The Wonder is a kind of Days Of Heaven meets Last Year At Marienbad, that is, a film with lots of lush visuals of Mid-Western wheatfields and isolated figures photographed against a setting sun and an allusively elliptical storyline about the transience of things.

Ben Affleck plays Neil, an American living in Paris who takes his girlfriend, Marina (Olga Kurylenko), and her young daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) back to Oklahoma with him. Marina and her daughter are bored out of their minds and return to France and Neil takes up with a former squeeze (Rachel McAdams). Then Marina returns. Neil marries her but the attempt to create a life together fails. Whilst all this is going on Javier Bardem wanders around as a priest experiencing a crisis of faith

Blocked out in large units and articulated through poetic voice-overs, the story is slender and the film is more of a visual assemblage than a relationship study. Whilst the former is at times impressive it is far too repetitious and wears out the relatively meagre amount of the latter. And that is frankly what most audiences are interested in, certainly much more than endless shots of the attractive Kurylenko running through fields of gold or the uncharacteristically timid Bardem’s turn as the tortured priest. 

Given the self-indulgence one suspects that Malick was very happy with his film but it is hard to imagine that many audiences will feel the same.




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