A very Malickian movie, with fields of grain and far more voiceover than dialogue. Absolutely full of camera movement, all of it motivated by place or action, and brilliant associative editing. Maybe a few too many shots with the sun right behind the foreground person’s head (this happens in most of the shots), but a beautiful, breathtaking movie to watch – and to hear, with appropriately big music by Hanan Townshend (returning from Tree of Life).
As for what actually happens in the movie, I’ll need to watch (happily) some more times, or refer to film writers and/or philosophers. Ben Affleck is our central/absent hero, with hardly any lines, as the film takes the POV of the women with him. First Olga Kurylenko (of a recent James Bond movie) comes from France to Oklahoma with her daughter, leaves again when Ben won’t marry her. Rachel McAdams (of a recent Woody Allen movie) takes up with Ben, but this doesn’t last long, and Olga returns without her daughter, marries and later divorces the stoic Ben. Meanwhile Javier Bardem (of a recent James Bond movie and a recent Woody Allen movie) is a local doubting minister who knows all three primary characters but doesn’t play a central role in their story, spending more time among the poorer citizens. The great DP Emmanuel Lubezki (nominated this year for Gravity instead of this) rightly described it all as abstract – and as usual, rumors abound of major actors and storylines that didn’t survive into the final edit (they’re not in the DVD extras either).
Not as straightforwardly religious (or as straightforwardly anything) as I’d heard, and possibly even less narrative than Tree of Life. Malick increasingly makes all other films seem unaccomplished and inadequate. Looking for articles I’m surprised at how many critics hated the movie, are tired of Malick’s techniques, say the characters and story are over-familiar. These critics have no love in their hearts.
He was once a myth, and many seem to have preferred him that way—with hallowed artists, absence is easier to confront than presence. He’s now a constant in our film culture, a searching, grasping, wrestling artist. … he seems to be discovering the world anew right along with Marina; this is a searching, selfless filmmaker, imagining the point of view of a good-hearted, soulful, and terribly solitary woman. In this way, To the Wonder is like the more elegiac second half of The New World — everything following Q’orianka Kilcher’s marriage to the laconic yet loving husband played by Christian Bale — stretched to feature length, a fish-out-of-water tale that finds beauty and harmony in disruption and estrangement.