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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost wonderful
This movie has come in for a bit of stick. Some say it’s little more than a series of beautiful perfume ad images strung together with a plaintive voiceover. For me, while it doesn’t rank with Terrence Malick’s best work, it’s hardly shallow. No film that seeks to explore the nature of love could be. But at the other end of the spectrum, there are...
Published 12 months ago by R. J. Lister

versus
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'To the Wonder' | 'To the *Wander*', perhaps?
'To the Wonder'? More like 'To the *Wander*'.

There is little more than a diluted thimble-full of plot to sustain this film, which is chiefly made up of shots of Ben Affleck ceaselessly wandering hither and thither with a troubled, moody expression. The same may be said for other members of the cast, only they say a little more.

Let's be clear - one...
Published 10 months ago by Hadders


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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost wonderful, 17 Feb. 2014
This review is from: To The Wonder [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
This movie has come in for a bit of stick. Some say it’s little more than a series of beautiful perfume ad images strung together with a plaintive voiceover. For me, while it doesn’t rank with Terrence Malick’s best work, it’s hardly shallow. No film that seeks to explore the nature of love could be. But at the other end of the spectrum, there are the claims of “pretentiousness” – which usually means ambitious, moving, divisive, passionate, challenging... All the things love is.

Ben Affleck plays Neil, soulful and practically mute, who brings his wife, Marina (Olga Kurylenko), and her daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline) from France to live in the US. The adults enjoy playing in the Days of Heaven fields, but the kid hates it. So Marina and Tatiana return home. In Marina’s absence, Neil has a fling with Jane (Rachel McAdams). But then Marina wants back in. Romance blossoms again… and is destined to sour again. And so the cycle goes on. Meanwhile, local priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem) is questioning his faith. While the lovers’ passion burns bright then dwindles, Quintana’s is already at its lowest ebb, and is gradually rekindled.

In The Tree of Life, Malick charted the lifeline of love, from the birth of empathy to the nuclear family. In To the Wonder, he’s looking at love in the modern context. Quintana finds his faith – the truth of love – in seeking to alleviate the suffering of others. Similarly, Neil and Marina seem forever to be repairing each other with their loving expressions. But what becomes of them when their suffering – their isolation – is fully alleviated? Malick seems to imply that in order for romantic love to be valid, it must paradoxically justify itself by being destructive; hence the ambivalence of the lovers, and their perennial push-and-pull.

Sometimes Malick’s style comes across as a parody of itself. The Silent Warrior and the Manic Pixie Girl (sounds like a bawdy comic-fantasy novel), ecstatic under sunset or framed exquisitely in grief. But there’s no doubt that there are few who regard this world in the way Malick does. He clearly has genuine affection for nature, and, crucially, he loves human beings. He doesn’t lament us. He doesn’t see our species as innately sinful. There’s no irony or satire in this film; but there is poetry, tragedy, and a rare and refreshing idealism.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars 'To the Wonder' | 'To the *Wander*', perhaps?, 23 April 2014
By 
'To the Wonder'? More like 'To the *Wander*'.

There is little more than a diluted thimble-full of plot to sustain this film, which is chiefly made up of shots of Ben Affleck ceaselessly wandering hither and thither with a troubled, moody expression. The same may be said for other members of the cast, only they say a little more.

Let's be clear - one can present a purposeful plot with impressionistic values - Malick did so with 'The Tree of Life'. It is telling that in 'To the Wonder's credits, the film acknowledges the use of footage from 'The Tree of Life'. In some way, I found this summed up one of 'To the Wonder's flaws: it *feels* like left-over, under-developed ideas, rather than 'The Tree of Life's visionary, operatic scope.

Javier Bardem's Father Quintana is perhaps the most sympathetic character; his inner-conflict underscores the film's principal themes of human bondage and forms of fidelity. But whilst his character is thematically central, he is under-used or otherwise obscured by the less than sympathetic emotional and domestic trials faced by Affleck and Olga Kurylenko.

Unquestionably there is something vital about the film's meditations; it features beautiful photography and expresses moments of real power, but it trades in its convictions concerning these matters for a form of audience participation, wherein the latter are obliged not to do the thinking, but to trek across chasm like gaps in plot with occasional directorial nudges.

Anyone who follows Malick's films will perhaps see visual and thematic links with his earlier 'Days of Heaven', but unfortunately it does not compare. Watch 'To the Wonder' to complete your viewing of Malick's other superior films, but prepare to be let down. A film of occasional magnificence and overwhelming disappointment.
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37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it is Malick's prerogative to make beauty for its own sake!, 26 Feb. 2013
This review is from: To The Wonder [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Terrence Malick's To the Wonder is less a film and more a homage to the autuer. This is a film which expounds the director's acute sense of ambivalence towards the world. One topic it is not confused about is love: the story is a testament to the chambers of the human heart. And it seems like Malick is wearing his on his sleeve for this one! The general tone of the work is a subtle, sweeping sun set that seeks to capture and focus on, distill, the rawness of the beauty of the world. Meditative moods and images pregnate the film almost to the point of turgidity. As if Malick were putting his compositional house in order; or more precisely his sense of aesthetic bliss, which permeates his entire oeuvre, this chapter in his career sums up what is beautiful, and indeed bitter about the world. The way the world works. The way love works. Malick is saying yes life and love are tough but we are strong enough to seek the Truth, and with the truth, God. He says 'show us how to seek you'. This is Malick the Christian, the preacher, turned to film to purchase his message to the world. By seeing this film, Malick hopes that we too will seek to find that elusive measure of the good, the beautiful and the sublime in our most mundane moment. In fact, he apparently abandons all sorts of formal narratives and structures as well as recognisible characters in order to paint the world with his twilit nuance - of ambivalence, of hope, despair and of course god. In end the film is an ocean of sorts. There is no narrative as such but a tide of happenings, a plethora of images which relate to an inner something, to which the viewer may or may not attach some particular import or reason. This film is a cinematic equivalent of an opening mind. Not a film as such but a revelation of the process of becoming one. Malick seeks to dissect what it means to be. The Hedeiggerian tone poet has produced a magnum opus for the connoisseur that balks at expectations and invites a deliriously fresh look at the world. But, with this noble ambition, he also seeks to ask us if we are brave enough to anticipate this brave new world or will we shy away, to our prejudice and heavy sighs?

Without a shadow, one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. Some of the images he finds are just bewildering: the scenes with the animals, ie horses stampeding and buffalo grazing are positively beguiling! It is not engaging per se in the way his earlier work is but seems to let the viewer stand alone to make his decision about this work. Abstract as an adjective is just not strong enough!

Just as life leaves us: wondering, wonder, whether it is real or not, it seems to suggest that the very idea of a decision is redundant - but what we do have is a breathless sense of beauty which manages to transcend humanity and reaches towards a realm of purity and silence that can only leave you with a sense of the sublime. But the sublime is a confusion in itself: awe, beauty, terror. Malick has distilled his views here in ways many cannot. Without a blemish! Not that it is clear what the film is truly about, and in a sense it asks us if it actually has to be about anything at all, but Malick says let us enjoy its bittersweet taste, if only for a time, because we are here for a good time and not a long time.

To the Wonder has only confirmed that Malick is a filmmaking mystic. And I wonder if he has now exhausted himself. With this work, despite its beauty, he seems to say that it is also not enough! I believe that this will leave many an audience without satisfaction. Perhaps it helps to share something of this mystery director's world view in order to fully realise his intentions. Basically I think it holds a mirror up to the world just as a zen mind will reflect, this film reflects and does not answer any questions. I think Malick is quite brave to have released this a let it be scrutinised by the world as it seems to be at the same time a personal odyssey as well as question mark directed towards the film world. Worth your time? Of course. Will you be any the wiser after seeing it? That is a question you have to answer for yourself! I was certainly left with a feeling of vague gratification with this and found something on offer which most films do not even recognise.
Technically a brilliant brilliant film. It is a seamless creation which seriously impressed me but do not seek emotional depth here. A zen master has written his most piquant koan!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Most boring movie ever, 12 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: To The Wonder [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
The most boring movie I have ever seen. And the incessant whirling and dancing of the leading actress like a six year old girl just make you detest her. One sit during the entire movie and wait for the story to begin, but nothing happens. After 30 minutes you begin to speed it up on your dvd-player ... faster and faster, but even on the fast track it is obvious that nothing happens apart from idiotic whirling...
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrence Malick gets wonderfully sympathetic performances from all of the cast, 29 Jun. 2014
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This review is from: To The Wonder [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
A most unusual film which is doing new things with a familiar theme. Terrence Malick gets wonderfully sympathetic performances from all of the cast. Ben Affleck is superb. Don't miss it ; it is genuinely poetic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive, 30 May 2014
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aaprad (London, UK) - See all my reviews
As an experimental work Terrence Malick once again proves he is the real McCoy. He is able to sustain his argument consistently, where most pretentious works tend to drift into the mundane. His finale in this movie is reflective of the transcendent power man has access to sometimes.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Malick's most underrated picture, 27 May 2014
In 2011 director Terrence Malick came to my attention when I went to see his film 'The Tree of Life'. It was one an unforgettable cinema experience. A film that was completely different to other films I would usually watch but it was one that I thought about for days. It made me think as well as feel something. When I heard Malick's new film entitled 'To the Wonder' was coming to one of my local cinemas I couldn't wait to watch another unconventional film by him. Did it live up to my expectations? Yes and more!

'To the Wonder' is a beautiful and powerful film by Malick, whose main focus for this film is love and religion. The story follows the ups and downs of the relationship between Neil (Affleck) and Marina (Kurylenko). Neil is an American whilst Marina is a French single mother. They both decide to move to Alabama, where their love for each other begins to fade. During these difficult times Marina comes across a priest (Bardem) who is struggling to have faith in his religion whilst Neil encounters a childhood friend (McAdams) who he begins to have a close bond with.

The script is, for the majority of the time, passionately written. There are a few lines where I found myself slightly confused to what they meant. The lines written along with the beautiful cinematography feels like a collaboration between a poet and a painter. Both different arts interwoven in order to create this effective mise en scene. Though the film concentrates on visuals for the narrative more than dialogue it felt as though the use of physicality through the characters was the dialogue. Malick seems to be one of those directors who believes actions speak louder than words and here he shows that. Though the film is beautifully shot I always felt as though the story wasn't overshadowed by the cinematography.

The acting was naturalistic and as a result made me believe in the characters and in times felt a slight connection. I did, however, find Affleck to be slightly uncomfortable in scenes where his character has no motives. The character Neil wasn't as well presented compared to the others. Whilst other character's objectives were shown clearly, Neil's wasn't. However, as I carried on watching the film I started to believe maybe that was the whole point. As the story develops Marina realises how distant and mysterious Neil becomes and it feels as though that's how we as an audience should feel too, we should view Neil as a complete mystery that we want to solve but know we may never get to.

Though I couldn't keep my eyes off the stunning imagery shown I still felt that I was somewhere familiar, somewhere that I felt I could connect to. Having it set in a modern period was possibly a reason I felt a closer connection to this story as well as the themes of love and questioning the existence of God. Different aspects of love are explored in this film and I felt as though anyone could find even a fragment of it that they could connect with.

The narrative is highly unconventional but this shouldn't come as a surprise if you have watched 'Tree of Life'. It was reported that Malick edited out performances from actors including Michael Sheen, Jessica Chatstein and Rachel Weisz and it felt as though their absence caused holes in the narrative to occur. However, for me this did not create too much of a problem as I found the story to still continue even with missing parts. Malick doesn't want to make the narrative easy for his audience and I believe in this film he wanted them to keep up with the story even when months or years had passed without us being fully aware.

Watching 'To the Wonder' is like observing a painting, what you see before you could be viewed as something completely different in the eyes of another. That is one of the reasons why I loved this film, it allows audiences to have their own interpretation of it, play an active role whilst viewing. When I left the cinema, like I did with 'Tree of Life', it left me thinking as well as feeling something. It made me wonder at how love can release a variety of emotions within someone. It can make someone happy, angry, confused or even upset. I believe Malick achieved what he set out to do and though this has received harsh reviews from many critics and film goers I frankly believed it is one of the best films I have seen this year.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 26 May 2014
This review is from: To The Wonder [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
Malick has directed some great movies this is not one of them. Beautiful to look at, as you would expect. This is so dull. If I was involved in the making of this film, I would be very disappointed.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Wonder is 'why?', 1 May 2014
This review is from: To the Wonder (Blu-ray)
Anyone who has seen Mr Beans holiday (where Willem Dafoe is the actor showing a stream of meaningless drivel to an audience of bewildered, and bored, viewers in Cannes) will find the first twenty minutes of this bilge strangely familiar. It is almost as if someone set out to make a comedic version of a French movie and came up with this. All the cliches are in there, the cut away shots, the panoramas of nature, the sultry clipped voice over. It's just so bad that you wonder whether they would have checked their calendar at the pre-screenings to see if it was April 1st. Twenty minutes later, it's still going on - random sentences thrown around and scenes jarring from home to countryside, to who knows where. I can't tell you what happened after that, as I skipped ten minutes on and it was still banging on in the same vein so I pressed the eject and sent it back to where it came - where I hope for the good of mankind it will sit forever on a shelf in an Amazon warehouse in order to save anyone else having to waste any of their lives watching it.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unbelievable shallow central character, 20 Dec. 2013
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This review is from: To The Wonder [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
As others have written the camera work and observation of the world is as strong as ever from Malick in To the Wonder but the film becomes unwatchable because the central female character is ridiculous, a grown women acting like a child forever playing silly. Just irritating, no redeeming values. For a film which deals strongly with the notion of love, mostly of the Christian sort, the love shown by the central characters is shallow. There is nothing to be gained there. For a moment or two you might think the film is going to do something useful with showing us how we are wrecking our planet but that notion just fades away. If you want to see how Malick works as a filmmaker take the time with other films of his, not this one.
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