Review: To The Wonder by Jamie

In January 2012, Terrence Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ was nominated for a Best Picture award. In my effort to see all of the nominees that year, I watched it. Needless to say I had some issues with it and by issues I mean it was one of the most tortuous viewing experiences I have ever put myself and, unluckily for them, the people who were with me through. I hated all two hours and twenty minutes of it and my very soul screamed for the sweet release that death would bring. And now it’s time for round two. Yes, new for the mind of Terrence Malick, it’s ‘To The Wonder’ a film that even star Ben Affleck says “makes Tree of Life look like Transformers.” I’ve really been putting this one off. I’m even writing this introductory paragraph before watching the film, something I don’t normally do. Fuck. Here we go.

Right. I’m back and through the magic of the internet, what seems like mere seconds for you felt like a lifetime for me. So, is To The Wonder a slow, ponderous, pretentious piece of visual poetry filled with people standing silently and barely coherent whispering? Is the Pope the head of an organisation that routinely tries to cover up child abuse? But you know what? I liked it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not going to become a regular watch and it really took a while for me to get into it but something just clicked. There are messages here about love, hate, faith and God, many of which I disagree with but I weirdly, I still can’t hate this film.

When I say it took me a while to get into it, I mean it really took a while. For the first hour, I must admit I was considering turning it off but there was something every now and then that kept me watching. After that hour I became invested and weirdest of all? I fucking loved the last half hour.

If I could guess the reason, it’s the story. Whilst, for me, Tree of Life was a random blur of metaphysics, flash backs and flash forwards, To The Wonder had a coherent linear story which, whilst still being very much in the mold of Malick, I was deeply invested in by the end. The story revolves around a pair of lovers, Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), and just what the nature of their love and their relationship is as they go through happy times and not so happy times, fall apart and come together. There’s a subplot that runs concurrent with this involving Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), who is sometimes Marina’s council in the tougher times, and his own strained relationship with Jesus Christ and the people who look to him for guidance.

Now, I obviously can’t recommend this film for everyone but having said that I wouldn’t have recommended it to myself before watching it. There’s still a lot to dislike here for me and, again, it took me a long time to get into but once I got there, I was hooked. The fact that Malick’s films are beautiful doesn’t really need to be said but I’m glad I could enjoy this one’s story as well. Does this film make Tree of Life look like Transformers? Well, maybe since Tree of Life and Transformers share about the same coherency when it comes to plot but in terms of pretentiousness. No, the film that’s about the trials and tribulations that accompany love is not more pretentious than the film that reduces the birth of the universe and the evolution of life on Earth to precursor to a 1950s family drama and ends with Sean Penn entering pseudo-event or something.

Perhaps strangest of all is that this is the film that even Malick fans seem to have taken a disliking to. So yeah, I’m that guy. I’m the guy that hated Tree of Life and enjoyed To The Wonder. I dunno what to say.

Honestly, I’m still coming to grips with liking this film and trying to describe why I did beyond the story is proving difficult. Perhaps like the mysteries of love and such, it shall always be mysterious. Mystery. So, um, yeah. Give it a try, maybe. You might be glad you did? Three and a half pints out of five. Laterz.

To The Wonder

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