Another review of mine, this time on the University of Edinburgh newspaper, The Student, website: http://www.studentnewspaper.org/review-to-the-wonder/
Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder is a flawed yet ambitious contemporary love story with many similarities to his previous film, the Palme d’Or-winning The Tree of Life (2011). As ever, many of his trademarks are present: sparse dialogue, voiceovers, beautiful cinematography, ambiguous meaning and so on. Until rather recently his films were also renowned for being very few and far between, but now his fans have had much to get excited about with the release of his second film in just sixteen months, as well as news of a further two projects on their way.
To The Wonder is unlikely to win over those who disliked The Tree of Life, since Malick ultimately builds upon some of the film’s most experimental aspects, ones that proved so frustrating for some viewers. The lack of dialogue is one such continuity combined with a stream-of-consciousness-type narration from some of the film’s main characters, giving the film a poetic yet at times pretentious feel without the side-effect of developing the story in an overly obvious manner.
The story itself follows the ups and downs of Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina’s (Olga Kurylenko) relationship, whilst at the same time the town’s priest (Javier Bardem) begins questioning his own faith in god. Christian Bale, who was originally set to star, might have been a wiser choice than Affleck who does not seem entirely suited to this type of role, where subtlety is required as he only has a handful of lines. Kurylenko on the other hand is more convincing yet her character soon becomes irritating as she skips and dances through parts of the film, undermining the otherwise serious tone of the film.
The Tree of Life’s cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki returns, giving the film familiar yet extremely stunning visuals. The astonishingly beautiful shots of nature when combined with the eerie orchestral soundtrack induce an almost hypnotic effect, and although much of these seem unconnected with the ‘plot’ – like a poem – it leaves much to the viewer’s interpretation. Again, this will be frustrating for some, but it is also what sets Malick apart from so many other directors today.