To the Wonder (2012)

Made Me Wonder Why?

Whilst travelling in Europe Neil (Ben Affleck) meets Marina (Olga Kurylenko) a Ukrainian single mum raising her daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) and he falls for her and she falls for him. So when it is time for Neil to return to American and his home in Oklahoma Martina and Tatiana go with him. But after the excitement of new love makes way for the routine of real life Marina becomes bored and finds herself attracted to Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) before returning back to France whilst Neil finds himself seeking comfort with old friend Jane (Rachel McAdams).

"To the Wonder" is only the third Terrence Malick movie which I have watched having enjoyed the awesome "Badlands" and then hated the pretentious "The Tree of Life". And sadly that experience of enduring "The Tree of Life" scarred me so much that rather than sitting down to watch "To the Wonder" feeling like I had a 50/50 chance of being entertained I expected to be tested again. And I was because whilst not as ridiculous as "The Tree of Life", "To the Wonder" is still pretentious and another movie which is predominantly going to work for those seeking an art experience rather than entertainment.

Now "To the Wonder" has a storyline and it is simply a story of a relationship which goes from the happiness of first love to the boredom of routine and then on to another level. Except it never feels like Malick's focus is on telling the story but using it more as a vehicle for all the artistic shots that he can squeeze together from the sun flashing behind someone's head to the way the shadows move or the water ripples around bricks thrown into a stream or how the light reflects on the ceiling through a glass chandelier. And I will not deny that Malick and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have great visual awareness to capture a lot of striking shots but it gets to the point that "To the Wonder" feels more like a show reel for a film student trying to showcase their ability to capture great shots rather than tell a story.

Of course, and I always have to say this, I watched "To the Wonder" to be entertained by something outside of the box and was disappointed. But I accept that for those whose interest in cinema is from an artistic and even academic perspective will have a very different experience to me and might find this an amazing movie of stunning cinematography.

What this all boils down to is that "To the Wonder" was not for me and found it a shallow experience which frequently felt more like a showcase for a director to capture an impressive shot than a movie with a story to tell and entertainment on its agenda.