'To the Wonder' Review: A Vague Afterthought from the Mind of Terrence Malick
Sitting through Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder is like watching a stranger sorting through a packet of old photographs.
To the photographer, the snapshots recall a story. To us they’re disconnected episodes in an unknown narrative. The people we see in them are laughing, crying, whatever; but we have no idea who they really are, and we never find out. As a cinematic technique, this willful ambiguity, dispensing with the building blocks of plot and character, is trying, and we feel a tide of boredom rising. But it’s Terrence Malick, so we hang on.
The movie isn’t much more than a footnote to The Tree of Life, Malick’s grand and masterful contemplation of human purpose amid the imponderable sweep of God’s creation. That movie really did instill a sense of wonder; this one is an afterthought. The familiar hallmarks of the director’s style are everywhere in evidence – his endless doting on the natural world (flowers reaching up through snowy ground, sunlight beaming through trees) and his heavy reliance on voiceover as a narrative device. But the interior monologues here (“What is this love that loves us?”) are low on illumination, and if the insistently arresting imagery were removed, there wouldn’t be a lot left to hold our interest. There’s very little as it is.
The main characters, if we can call them that, are an American named Neil (Ben Affleck) and a Frenchwoman named Marina (Olga Kurylenko, giving the movie’s only engaging performance).
Read the full review at Reason.com