Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder – Review and Trailer

photo_04four-stars4“You thought that we had forever. That time didn’t exist” – Marina of To The Wonder

“What is love, oooh, oooh, oooh. What is love, oooh, oooh, oooh. What is love. Baby don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me no more” – Haddaway (1993)

As odd and as unlikely as it may seem, yes, that second quote is extremely applicable to Terrence Malick‘s newest film.

Oh Malick, you devil you. You’ve done it to me again. As if crafting a rolling poetic triumph unlike any I’ve seen beforehand on the meaning of love wasn’t enough for you, you had to take it one step further and transcend this capturing of emotion from the screen into my consciousness, thus making what should have been a ho-hum trek from one corner of San Francisco to the other, one of euphoria and, well… wonder.

Those who have seen Malick’s previous film The Tree of Life might already have an idea as to what they’re getting themselves into. Breathtakingly interesting and often meditative visuals, and inner voiceover whisperings of fleeting thoughts are the two prominent factors at play here.  Unlike The Tree of Life, which was criticized by many mainstream outlets as being “arthouse” (whatever that means), To The Wonder does contain a more accessible narrative. Make no mistake about it though, this is still a very Malickian film that will most likely split audiences into either those who criticize it as being overindulging or those who praise it for its audacious attempt at tackling the most common of themes (love) in a way not often approached, especially in the world of major – even limited – film releases.

The narrative plot, which in this case exists as a mere canvass to paint a portrait of the film’s true main character, love, is nothing new and has been seen in countless sweeping romantic dramas throughout the history of film, as well as R. Kelly episodic music videos. Those of you who don’t want to know a single plot point, the rest of this paragraph does contain spoilers. An American man (a restrained Ben Affleck) falls in love with a French woman (the stunningly gorgeous Olga Kurylenko) who already has a child from a previous lover, and the three of them move to the United States to live out “the American dream.” French woman has to leave country, takes her daughter (first time actor Tatiana Chiline) with her and leaves man alone in US to fall in love again with a new woman (Rachael McAdams). Man and new woman break up just in time for the return of the French woman, this time without daughter. Man and Frenchie get married, and then she cheats on him with the carpenter. Meanwhile throughout all of this there’s the character of the priest (Javier Bardem) whose love, or lack of love issues are between him and God.

Like I said earlier, none of the above mentioned storyline is of any real importance to the film’s grander theme. What is important is the powerful calming feeling and altered perspective that I took with me long after the film was finished. Sure, there are a few moments (very few) where the film seemed to drag a bit, but at the end of the day I will think of To The Wonder first and foremost as a fine example of cinema’s power to transcend from screen to being.

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