Terrence Malick has a unique style, defiantly leaves his mark. If you’ve seen a few of Malick’s movies before, you can always tell it’s him directing, regardless if you didn’t know going in. I’ve always appreciated what Malick does. I’m not his biggest fan however. Never have I hated anything he’s done, just sort of admired aspects while other things come on too strong. They seem to be style over substance. That term is mainly used for blockbusters who rely on CGI. In cases like this, though, a director can have a heavy style that engulfs everything; in a way it is everything. With a big style, it can become subjective – either works for you or it doesn’t. I knew To The Wonder wasn’t going to change any of my feelings. Still went in with an open mind of course. Was very intrigued, but nothing really meshed together for me.
Neil (Ben Afleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) met each other in France. They fell in love there. Eventually, both of them moved to Oklahoma, they find living together is more difficult than originally thought. Problems start to arise rather quickly. Marina makes acquaintance with a priest, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem). He is struggling with his vocation heavily, his faith is being challenged. On the other hand Neil renews an old relationship with a childhood sweetheart, Jane (Rachel McAdams). The once perfect love Neil and Marina had seems to be slipping away more and more as each day passes.
The screenplay was the main element that hindered everything. To the Wonder doesn’t rely on dialog to tell the story. Mainly, the plot is told with voice overs; there are loads. It for sure was a different tactic to use; not used often. Lots of effort wasn’t given to the script, I’m pretty sure that was intentional. The voice overs weren’t spectacular, but they did their job without becoming a problem. My biggest gripe lies within the characters. Anytime a love story is being told, the two main characters are vital. If all else falters, the characters can still mange to pull you back at least somewhat. When watching the story unfold nothing ever hooked me. I thought the parts on Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) was a wasted opportunity. Good scenes do come along. That’s all they are, though, nothing comes together.
I never was in love with The Tree of Life like most people were. I did think it was better than this however. This is largely because the atmosphere didn’t suffocate nearly as much as it did here – actually enhanced. I got what it was trying to accomplish, but it didn’t work. With the narrative lacking, I could never get emotionally connected. This gives a cold feeling when the movie is obviously trying to be all-encompassing warm. Amidst this metaphysical and personal experience Malick takes us on not only a sense of the “wonder of love” but celebrates our sense of all-around wonder as well. To the Wonder deals with faith and human emotions in many different shapes. Some of those messages come across while others fall flat. For themes so personal, attachment was a major issue.
The acting was fine. Nothing to rave about, but good overall. Ben Affleck still continues to be great in everything he’s done since 2007. One of my favorite actors and directors as of late. Affleck solely acts here. He was a positive factor for sure, I felt more connected to the acting more than the character. Olga Kurylenko was the weakest link acting wise. She came off wooden, bland, and uninteresting to watch. What made things worse for her was another actress was great. The stand-out was Rachel McAdams. I wish she’d been given a bigger role. McAdams helped start the movie off fairly strong, unfortunately her screen time is limited. Javier Bardem was well cast well and delivered a solid performance through and through.
Visually, To the Wonder is flawless. The cinematography is absolutely exquisite. Small things make a difference, stuff like moving grass or just the lighting in certain scenes did wonders. I felt the visuals were given such care that the characters and story were sort of pushed off to the side. The visuals really are the movie. In the end, a look of a film can only get you so far. Something else needs to be a factor. Nothing fell under the category of bad, a few parts worked here and there as well. Still, it was out of my head short after I saw it. When a movie wants you to feel something deep – this one did – it’s not a good sign when it fails. Unless you’re a big Malick fan, I wouldn’t recommend. Honestly, felt kind of similar to a long commercial.