To the Wonder (2012)

After falling in love in Paris, Marina and Neil come to Oklahoma, where problems arise. Their church's Spanish-born pastor struggles with his faith, while Neil encounters a woman from his childhood.


Terrence Malick's follow up to "The Tree of Life" will split opinion even more than that extremely divisive film did. As usual I mentally ticked off the experience of watching one of his films on the big screen…

Elegiac classic music, often Wagner - check.
Camera drifting across astonishing vistas of water, fields and skies - check.
Whispered poetic narration, often confusing, sometimes in another language - check.
Beautiful people looking sad, walking away from the camera, often in a sunset glow - check.
Also various annoyed audience members struggling with all of the above wondering where the story is. Check.

It's more Malicky than ever, almost to the point of parody if it weren't so masterfully executed - but personally I found it much less satisfying than "The New World" or "The Thin Red Line", possibly because a lot of the time is spent in unremarkable streets of suburban Oklahoma, and partly because it's a film very much about love in all its forms (romantic, parental, spiritual) and that depends far more on character and situation, something that Malick isn't particularly interested in.

Olga Kurylenko (best known for being the "Quantum of Solace" Bond girl) is the lead, and she is absolutely radiant and gives a nuanced, contradictory and heartfelt performance without very much to do. There's a star performance coming from her some time soon for sure. Ben Affleck is very miscast as the man who doesn't know what he wants - rather than supplying gravitas and complexity he just looks dumbfounded and disengaged for most of the film. Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem have some good moments in supporting roles, hers stripped back to essentially one sequence.
It's beautiful, but has no time for happy endings, and takes a long time getting there. If you loved "The Tree of Life" you probably don't need anyone's advice about whether to watch this. If you hated "The Tree of Life" this really isn't going to be the film to change your mind about the idiosyncratic and uncompromising talents of Terrence Malick.

8 years ago


A wonderful film. Not because I feel I have any particularly deep understanding of it (if there is anything to "get,") but simply because the two hours I spent in the theater were incredibly enjoyable and refreshing. I really love the way music and movement (of people and of the camera) and narration work together in his recent films to create a sort of feature-length film "symphony" or "dance" (yes, I realize that sounds hopelessly pretentious, but…)

I totally understand people who dislike/hate Malick's recent output, but I for one am really glad he's still working and making this kind of movie.

8 years ago


Flaws and all, I still found it an intoxicating, beautiful and heartfelt work. Malick has been my favorite director for quite some time and even though this is easily his worst film to date, It still worked for me.

8 years ago

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