For The Esoteric & Experiential

To the Wonder (2013)
A Review by Ben Hunter
2½ Out Of 5 Stars
April 12, 2013

“Get to the Point Ben!” Learning to love is what the world needs so desperately.  So in that sense, maybe To the Wonder is worth experiencing at least once?  One thing’s for sure, those familiar with Terrence Malick, his style, and are definite naysayers, will “love” to continue the disinterest afterwards! 
Neil (Ben Affleck) & Marina (Olga Kurylenko)
in their new life together in America
Fresh off of the middle finger from The Academy, Ben Affleck takes his presence on the big screen in a new light with Terrence Malick’s latest as a man who falls in and out of love.  We learn about the power of love with our fellow man as well as the love between man and God. 

Neil (Affleck) falls for a woman while in Paris, Marina (Olga Kurylenko).  Neil convinces her to move to America with him in a nice suburban home in Oklahoma with her 10-year-old daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) from her previous marriage.  Their relationship has its passionate fire as well as its dwindling one and love dries thin.  The two feel the flame cooling.  Neil continues as an environmental inspector yet soon reconnects with a woman from his childhood Jane (Rachel McAdams).  Marina finds solace with Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) a man of exile in similar relation to her, but a man living in a crisis of faith.  All characters and storylines related to one flowing theme which make up this film …

Marina questions her love for Neil as passions dwindle

Love for man; love for God; love for what we desperately seek in life, a deep and intimate connection with a mate whom we feel destined to find; love for our families, love for our offspring, the feeling that love gives us which electrifies our daily experiences, what we touch, what we see, what we feel, whom we encounter, every day; every day we must love, for if we love to live … we must live … to love!  

Marina finds solace in Father Quintana (Javier Bardem)
This is classic Terrence Malick, VERY esoteric!  If one is up for the experiential, the new things in life, and not familiar with his work, they will cross the fork in the road that defines pretty much all of Malick’s films and travel to one distinct destination and nothing in between.  I say all that to fancily communicate you will either “love” this film or hate it, there is no middle ground.  You will commit to one of the sides that the fork in the road takes you to.  THAT is classic Terrence Malick and I have to respect him for that.  He has a clearly defined style and body of work.  He’s been working in the business for quite sometime, has a following, I can’t complain if I don’t line up with the affirmative. It just boils down to preference.  One thing I do like about his work is the fact that he’s very in tune with his spirituality, which he isn’t afraid to include in his films.   

So if you’re up for really beautiful cinematography (and Olga constantly spinning only in arthouse fashion, enough to make you dizzy) which carries the story with very little dialogue, voiceovers as well as some French & Spanish subtitles to help relay the message as well, then give it a try.  But I must warn you; Terrence Malick is not for the common person. I would say most people lay with the dissenting, as his films aren’t made for the commercial moviegoers just looking for a good time.  As I mentioned, his films are for the esoteric and those of the experiential with an open mind and heart.  I’m all for this, as this is how I discovered and fell in love with one of my ALL TIME favorite directors (Woody Allen).  However, just know these films of Malick are very “different”.  Be ready for analyzing artsy cinematography and trying to figure out what the meaning behind each shot is.  The look, the touch, the spin, the hair draping over the edge of the railing as Affleck slowly leans Olga back in the flow of true emotion and love … arthouse, VERY artsy.  To all of my film friends that have seen Malick’s previous film Tree of Life, a film that heavily resembles the look and style of this one yet is less intimate than Wonder, which focuses on one emotion, you all will love this film!

Neil & Jane (Rachel McAdams) in a new love and passion.

I prefer a little more solidarity in my movie going, more concrete storytelling and less of a feeling that leaves me up in the air about it and having to figure out the meaning.  Some is good for me, more or less, but I don’t like it to be the main premise of the storytelling I experience. I wanted to support Ben Affleck after his critically acclaimed Argo and especially after how The Academy treated him this past season and not just the movie as a whole.  I personally feel he could’ve chosen better for his career.  But in the spirit of the experiential that I mention, it doesn’t hurt to give this way of filmmaking a try.  It may open his mind for his next endeavor in which he helms which my make that experience a better one.  So I’m very hopeful, optimistic, and always eager!  However, for this experience, the sandman and I had a really well fought out match, ordered straight from Vince McMahon himself!  This was in the middle of the day for my experience with Wonder, after having slept in most of the morning by the way.  So I knew it was the material of the film and not the state of my presence at the time.

However, if you’re up for a new adventure … then give To the Wonder a try.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you if it’s too “artsy” for you! 

To the Wonder
Drama, 112 Minutes, R
Written & Directed by: Terrence Malick
Cast: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams, & Javier Bardem

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