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Friday, 19 April 2013 00:00

'To the Wonder' doesn't deliver on the wonder

'To the Wonder' doesn't deliver on the wonder pastemagazine.com
Written by Diane Carson
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The inimitable writer/director Terrence Malick has crafted another tone poem, this one a meditation on various aspects and stages of love. He focuses on a central couple: the American Neil and Frenchwoman Marina. Secondarily, a Spanish speaking Father Quintana interrogates his failing faith and Neil renews a prior friendship with Jane.

In the early scenes, Neil and Marina visit Mont St. Michel and then Paris with Marina's daughter Tatiana. Shortly thereafter the three move to Oklahoma where the landscape is dramatically different but the emotions consistent. They're clearly enamored of each other, heady with love and totally captivated, until, inevitably?, changes creep into their relationship. Not that Malick details anything. Rather, he presents the effect, feelings described in soft, almost imperceptible voiceover with the individuals expressing their emotions.

Malick's films visually and aurally convey moods, not stories; feelings, not events. They present lyrical, sometimes hypnotic images, but he has explored this territory before, most recently in his impressive "The Tree of Life." As a result, many of the images, haunting as they are, feel like intruders from previous dreams and memories. Moreover, the images become repetitive, even annoying as Marina twirls and floats through the grass and the rooms. Malick is reaching for profound and elusive feelings, and good for him attempting the almost impossible. But this time, though I'm a long-time Malick fan, "To the Wonder" doesn't quite capture the magic he strives for.

As Neil, Ben Affleck offers a presence but not a complex character, and as Marina, Olga Kurylenko seems merely juvenile. As Father Quintana, Javier Bardem is the one I wanted to know more about. Throughout "To the Wonder," there's minimal voiceover and almost no dialogue, mostly in English with French, Spanish and Italian with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.
 

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