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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
12A
Cast
Ben Affleck
Rachel McAdams
Olga Kurylenko
Javier Bardem.
Directors
Terrence Malick.
Screenwriters
Terrence Malick.
Running Time
113 minutes

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To The Wonder
Malick goes modern


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Plot
Neil (Affleck) falls for free spirit Marina (Kurylenko) in Paris and the pair, plus Marina’s daughter (Tatiana Chiline), move to Oklahoma. While the relationship goes through tough times — Neil seeks solace in old friend Jane (McAdams) — Marina’s US priest, Father Quintana (Bardem), experiences a similar crisis of confusion.


Review
To The Wonder
“It makes Tree Of Life look like Transformers,” said star Ben Affleck about Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder. He’s not wrong. All of Malicks tics — voiceover, impressionistic editing, bursts of classical music, grass, lots of grass — are even more pronounced, but there are key tweaks to his M. O..

Firstly, this is Malick’s first film set wholly in the present — the film opens with ugly camera-phone imagery, still the most lyrical camera-phone imagery you’ve ever seen — and the film generates interesting tension from the rub of Malick’s timeless concerns (paradise lost) against strip-mall America. In outline, To The Wonder could be an Apatowian romantic comedy: a quick-to-commit couple try to survive the realities of love after the first throes of ardour have waned. Malick shoots the start of Neil (Affleck) and Marina’s (Olga Kurylenko) romance like no-one has ever made a film about the rush of love before. Every romantic cliché is there — a snatched kiss on a honey-glazed Seine bridge, whispered voiceover sharing breathless expressions of love — but such is the force of Malick’s feeling that it becomes tender, sexy ( another Malick first) and touching. It’s a triumph of the un-ironic, life and love through different eyes.

In its second Stateside act, the ebb after the flow in the pair’s relationship delivers a touching portrait of disillusionment, fading fervour and temptation. Malick intertwines their faltering feelings with the couple’s priest, Father Quintana (a haunted Javier Bardem), as he questions his faith in what seems an increasingly Godless world. Passion (religious or romantic) vs. pragmatism is a throughline here.

An underrated actors’ director, Malick draws a firecracker of a turn from Romina Mondello as Marina’s best friend. Yet Kurylenko nabs the honours, by turns introspective, silly and heartbreaking.


Verdict
Less ambitious than The Tree Of Life, To The Wonder remains 100 per cent pure, unadulterated Malick, an absorbing, thoughtful, moving meditation on the things that matter.


Reviewed by Ian Freer

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for To The Wonder
Empire Star Rating

RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

Neil is an American travelling in Europe who meets and falls in love with Marina, a Ukrainian divorcée who is raising her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana in Paris. Marina and Tatiana relocate to Neil’s native Oklahoma, where he takes a job as an environmental inspector. After some time, the couple’s passionate romance cools. Marina finds solace with the Catholic priest Father Quintana, who is undergoing a crisis of faith, but Tatiana begins to feel homesick. Sometime later, Marina tells Neil that ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Dr Lenera at 18:58, 27 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

Visually stunning, great music, tiresome and unnecesary narration... twirling, TWIRLING. All the Malick boxes ticked. Next! Also: I'm pretty sure someone said "I in you" at some point. And I'm pretty sure I laughed. ... More

Posted by UTB at 23:46, 21 June 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

L: demoncleaner L: Qwerty Norris Terrence's most prolific streak has predicated the weakest entry in his career to date. There's a clear narrative regarding the immigrant experience in a foreign land and how that adopted homeland reaffirms or questions the pursuit of of love, faith or belonging. Yet this is compromised by an awkward 30 minute segment involving Affleck & McAdams which gives the film less focus (even by Malick's often meandering style) and far less ambiguity than A... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 08:45, 28 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The only wonder is how I sat through it

L: Itsaboy Words cannot express how much I hated this film. As I watched I became more and more incensed by Malik's empty posturing, tedious pseudo-spiritual babble, undeveloped charactersand total disregard for the audience. This tendency has, of course, been growing over his last four films at least and now reaches its full flowering. If I see one more charater walking moodily through high grass, dancing joyously down supermarket aisle or draping themselves in net curtains, I shall... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 15:23, 27 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: The only wonder is how I sat through it

I'm a huge Malick fan, and this is another brilliant work from him imo. I found it to be a totally realistic, unsentimental take on relationships, breakups and love. It explores similar themes that he looked at in Days Of Heaven, but mixes that with elements from his other films. As always with Malick, Nature is something that he focuses on, and I love his depiction of the female characters in his films as being a part of it, this is no different. He films his actresses like goddesses, and in t... More

Posted by Coyleone at 23:49, 26 March 2013 | Report This Post


The only wonder is how I sat through it

Words cannot express how much I hated this film. As I watched I became more and more incensed by Malik's empty posturing, tedious pseudo-spiritual babble, undeveloped charactersand total disregard for the audience. This tendency has, of course, been growing over his last four films at least and now reaches its full flowering. If I see one more charater walking moodily through high grass, dancing joyously down supermarket aisle or draping themselves in net curtains, I shall scream. Sure, the f... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Itsaboy at 10:07, 16 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

L: Qwerty Norris Terrence's most prolific streak has predicated the weakest entry in his career to date. There's a clear narrative regarding the immigrant experience in a foreign land and how that adopted homeland reaffirms or questions the pursuit of of love, faith or belonging. Yet this is compromised by an awkward 30 minute segment involving Affleck & McAdams which gives the film less focus (even by Malick's often meandering style) and far less ambiguity than Affleck's character sho... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 22:47, 06 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: To The Wonder

To Terrence Malick everything is elliptical - time, the movement of the planets, the kinetic elegance of a fairground ride or the rise and fall of an industrial rotary pump. Oh and people, people are elliptical most of all. This is a film where people largely emote by pirouetting when happy, whilst in a mood, they’ll lope around in circles staring at their feet. So obvious is this in Wonderou expect a concerned bystander to maybe come up and interject with a gentle warning love, if you emot... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 22:38, 06 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

Terrence's most prolific streak has predicated the weakest entry in his career to date. There's a clear narrative regarding the immigrant experience in a foreign land and how that adopted homeland reaffirms or questions the pursuit of of love, faith or belonging. Yet this is compromised by an awkward 30 minute segment involving Affleck & McAdams which gives the film less focus (even by Malick's often meandering style) and far less ambiguity than Affleck's character should be. In a work where di... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 14:34, 02 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

L: Filmfan 2 One can only assume that Malick has a massive soft spot for ballet, or performance art, as his recent output has been moving very much in that direction. I saw this yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As with a lot of Malick's movies, you either love them or hate them. His past two efforts have been quite sublime in places; indeed, the sequence in the movie wherend Jane spend time together that is accompanied by 'Cantus Arcticus, Op. 61, ‘Concerto for Birds and Orc... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 14:00, 02 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

One can only assume that Malick has a massive soft spot for ballet, or performance art, as his recent output has been moving very much in that direction. I saw this yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed it. As with a lot of Malick's movies, you either love them or hate them. His past two efforts have been quite sublime in places; indeed, the sequence in the movie where Neil and Jane spend time together that is accompanied by 'Cantus Arcticus, Op. 61, ‘Concerto for Birds and Orchestra’: III. J... More

Posted by Filmfan 2 at 16:32, 01 March 2013 | Report This Post


RE: frustrating, tender, and emotionally earnest to a fault

As flat as a Malick film can get. To pick up on some of the themes rised in RW's more postive review, it is one thing to present a film as a moody, documentary piece, with more relance on voice over, it is quite another to give the viewer almost no story or character devolpment over the course of the film, and unlike Tree of Life this doesn't at least have bold themes. Also said voice over, was over used and just over telegraphed the point and unlike you I found said french girl very an... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ElephantBoy at 23:58, 26 February 2013 | Report This Post


To the Wonder

A couple of years ago, the release of The Tree of Life, Terrence Malick’s fifth and most ambitious film which could simply be identified a 50’s-set family drama but it also delves into the birth of creation whilst having all the Malick credentials such as whispered narration, experimental narrative and plants blown by the wind. This film had polarised both critics and audiences, and if you’re not part of the Terrence Malick fandom, then To the Wonder will not be your cup of tea. As Neil (B... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 18:28, 22 February 2013 | Report This Post


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