Set in The Irish Midlands in 1862, the story follows a young girl who stops eating but remains miraculously alive and well. English nurse Lib Wright is brought to a tiny village to observe eleven-year old Anna O’Donnell. Tourists and pilgrims mass to witness the girl who is said to have survived without food for months. Is the village harbouring a saint ‘surviving on manna from heaven’ or are there more ominous motives at work?
Don’t let overly enthusiastic reviews fool you, this is unfortunately only an average movie, saved by very good performances of the whole ensemble and mainly by Florence Pugh. While the whole setup was for a slow burner – which ain’t bad per se and particularly servicable for a victorian drama – and the atmosphere and sets were just on the right side of cold, boggy and poor, the movie mostly failed to grab me by my imaginary balls.
It already went downhill for me in the first scene. They show us a filmstudio, complete with a farmhouse and internal set built in. And in that set the storyline starts.
Oh my. That’s not the way to drag me into the plot. I know why they did it, read the explainification somewhere, alas, it didn’t work its wonders on me. Sorry, I’m just a really bitchy audience member and far from an artsy fartsy movie critic. I wanna be manipulated by the movie, even if the movie makes its intentions clear: Don’t be fooled by what you see and hear. But that’s exactly what I watch movies for. Most of you too, innit?
Is the wonder in The Wonder just a trick? Yes. We would’ve found out without any warning by the filmmakers. Apart from that, well, fitting atmosphere, very good acting all around, a supernaturally good Florence Pugh and not much else. Unfortunately.
About Florence Pugh I already had a feeling when we watched the very very icky Black Widow. She saved that trainwreck as well, out-acted my beloved ScarJo and left a very positive impression on me. Can it be that she slowly turns out as a new Juliette Binoche, an actress that makes everything better? In Ghost in the Shell, another ScarJo trainwreck, the good Juliette played the only multifaceted character if you care to remember.
Okay, back to the movie … no, actually not. Don’t have much to add, so we can segue directly into the …
The Wonder is a competently made movie that lives from the good performances, and not much else. The atmosphere of the 1860s poorhouse Ireland, the mistrust towards the English nurse, the backwards thinking Irish folks, all that is finely honed and very well done. So The Wonder works well as a period peace but the mysterious plot clearly isn’t all that. This story could’ve been told in a 15 minutes short movie.
Kermode is smitten:
Hah! Found this little gem: