The Wonder (2022) Eye for Film Movie Review

“Pugh’s performance, which dovetails well with newcomer Cassidy’s devout determination as Anna, can’t quite overcome the uneven plotting and, at times, flimsy characterization.” | Photo: Courtesy of San Sebastian Film Festival

The autumnal browns and mossy greens of rural Ireland provide a somber backdrop for Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s first English language feature, set in the post-famine period of the 1860s. about Florence Pugh’s nurse, Lib Wright, looks different. Not just the powder blue outfit she wears, but her Northern English accent and empirical leanings, which set her apart as the newcomer that she is.

Wright is no trespasser, however, having been invited to this tiny village to give his opinion on 11-year-old Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy), who has supposedly not eaten anything in months, claiming she lives of “manna from heaven”. Instead. As the girl increasingly became what passes for a tourist attraction, Wright was hired by a panel, including church greats and good (and featuring heavy hitters Ciarán Hinds and Toby Jones in cameo roles), with a nun (Josie Walker) to watch the girl in 12-hour shifts to prove or disprove this apparent miracle.

Since the movie is about what we choose to believe or not, it’s a clever idea from Lelio to complement it by showing us the soundstage where the action takes place. He may completely break the fourth wall, but he also shows how easily we accept the story he creates for us – a little faith can go a long way. But it’s Pugh’s intensity that does the heavy lifting here, as the tragedy of Lib’s past slowly unfolds while things also threaten to take a deadly turn in the present as she focuses on the truth behind the mystery. Lelio’s approach is equally fervent, using the claustrophobic interiors of Anna’s house and Lib’s boarding house to stir up the somber mood, which is imparted by Matthew Herbert’s vocal and often percussive score.

But Pugh’s performance, which fits well with newcomer Cassidy’s devout determination as Anna, can’t quite overcome the uneven plotting and, at times, flimsy characterization of Emma Donoghue, adapted from her own novel, with Alice Birch. While it’s great to see Tom Burke in a less sleazy role than usual, his love interest reporter William Byrne is underwritten over Lib, which adds to the feel of the film’s final act, albeit clean and well tidy, arriving and unrolling with excessive haste.

Reviewed on: Oct 01, 2022

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