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To the Wonder

To the Wonder
Director: Terrence Malick
Released on: April 12th, 2013
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

When To the Wonder, the latest from maestro Terrence Malick, premiered at last year’s Venice International Film Festival, it is reported to have been met with both acclaim and beratement from the audience. Regardless, the film still won the festival’s SIGNIS Award. At my particular screening there were a few laughs, a few walkouts and one guy snoring loud enough to get a few more laughs. True, Malick isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s their loss. To the Wonder is a satisfying, albeit pretentious, piece of art cinema with all the Malick attributes one would expect: fragmented storyline, voice-overs, shots of the sun, dazzling music, spiritual contemplation.

The film is about the rocky relationship between Marina and Neil, played respectively by Olga Kurylenko and Ben Affleck. When we first meet the couple, they are in France. They walk the beach at Mont Saint-Michel and streets of Paris, at each other’s side. They laugh, play and show affection for one another. It appears they are deeply in love. Neil asks Marina and her daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) if they would like to move to America with him. They accept the invitation and trade cosmopolitan Parisian life for the subdivisions and strip malls of suburban Oklahoma.

The girls have trouble adjusting to American life. Tatiana has difficulty making friends, and Marina starts to feel that the burning passion she once shared with Neil is dying out. Neil’s eyes do begin to wander, especially towards Jane (Rachel McAdams), an old childhood friend. Marina, though still madly in love with Neil, seems to lose faith in their relationship. She befriends her parish priest, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), with whom she finds some solace. He too is losing faith in his relationship with God and the community he serves.

To the Wonder may not be Malick's best movie, but the film is nonetheless a provocative and stunning work. He turns everyday American things we take for granted into terrific cinematic visuals, giving new meaning to the things that are ubiquitous in our society. To the Wonder, essentially, is a European-style art film set in modern Middle America. Kurylenko stands out as a woman who has made many sacrifices in her life for the sake of her aloof husband and the American life she has adopted, and the audience sees her life through Malick’s eyes.

Since the success of The Tree of Life, To the Wonder is the first of a handful of projects Malick has lined up for release over the next couple of years. The enigmatic maestro seems to be riding a large wave of creative energy, releasing more films in the new millennium than in the last, and that’s fine by me. Bring ‘em on!

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