'To The Wonder' a bit of a slog

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:09 PM ET

Even for the most passionate Terrence Malick fan, To The Wonder is a bit of a slog.

Although mesmerizing to look at, this tale of love and regret meanders more than somewhat, and certain sections of the film are impenetrable.

To The Wonder is focused on Marina, a woman played by Olga Kurylenko. She lives in Paris with her little daughter, and Ben Affleck plays Neil,an American who comes into their lives.

A key early scene involves Marina and Neil's visit to the island abbey of Mont St. Michel, where they walk around the tidal island and marvel at its beauty.

And marvel at their love for each other.

In time, their relationship gets more serious and they move together to Oklahoma. These sequences are incredible for the way in which Marina's cultural and emotional isolation are conveyed. She voices-over much of the story; under the vast sky, living now in a huge development of fantastically ugly new subdivision houses, there is nobody with whom she can communicate.

For all that Affleck is her co-star, he almost isn't in the movie. His face is often turned away from the camera or he's only partially in certain shots, a reflection of his character's reserve and emotional absence, no doubt. As the relationship between Neil and Marina begins to fall apart, she takes comfort in the presence of a visiting priest (Javier Bardem) who is equally alone and wondering about his place in the universe.

Rachel McAdams comes into the story briefly as a woman from Neil's past and someone he obviously has not forgotten. When it comes to infidelity, Marina wanders off with a comparative stranger; it's a gesture that appears to be designed as a wakeup call for Neil, but it raises more questions than it answers. Pity and anger seem to be the emotions Neil knows best.

To The Wonder is a meditation on love -- physical, spiritual, emotional -- and regret, and the story seems to belong to the past and to sorrow. Malick has carefully avoided giving away any information about his own life, but To The Wonder appears to be somewhat autobiographical -- the director was married in Paris many years ago; that marriage ended, and he then married an American woman he had dated in high school.

Like all Malick films, this one is so gorgeous you could eat it, but making sense of it is another story. Fans who know enough to just give over and let To The Wonder hypnotize them will love what they see, but those not enamoured of Malick's work should consider themselves warned.

liz.braun@sunmedia.ca

 


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