This is a very particular kind of movie: lyrical, sensory and visually untouchable. If you enjoy movies like Last Year at Marienbad, you should definitely submerge yourself in this film. If you’re more in the camp of say….Bad Boyz 2, read no further.
Terrence Malick seems to be on an artistic tear as of late, for someone who
waits a notoriously long time between films, he’s now cranking them out by his standards. One of Malick’s key new ingredients is cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who also worked on Tree of Life. I don’t know which of the two is more responsible for the incredibly gorgeous visuals. The way the camera follows people (hand-held with random splattering of swaths of natural light) also echoes Tree of Life.
To me, Tree of Life represents childhood (and it does such an amazing job of conveying the indescribable essence of that). To the Wonder, then is the middle saga. Tales of love, marriage, moving as well as the fallout from those same situations. (I’m very curious if Malick’s next film will address the “3rd chapter” of life?) Subtitles and voiceovers are the main plot-conveying devices, which works two ways. #1: it makes the film, on the surface, seem o-so-arty, as well as conveys the factual information the viewer needs….BUT #2: it frees the film up to simply record impressions of moments (as impossible as that sounds). This is why I wholeheartedly endorse this movie. You don’t have to know what’s happening exactly, you experience it.
I also applaud Malick for not giving shit-one about the commercial viability of his films. Most of the reviews I’ve read of To the Wonder are not positive, and I’m sure it’s not making too much money on the slim art house circuit. One reviewer kept describing how he didn’t like looking at the back of Affleck’s head the whole movie, but I really think that’s missing the point, the characters are almost like place settings. To the Wonder conveys a feeling and experience, that if you are ready, is well worth the effort.
If you’ve never seen a Malick movie, start with Badlands, and you’ll begin to understand the devotion he elicits.