The Movie: 8.5/10
Flaws first, just to be fair. The romanticized view of women in this movie is enough to make your blood sugar rise. Seriously, Malick might have a very tuned in brain for making fantastic films about the depths of what life offers us, his view of women though, is about as old fashioned and fantasized as you will find outside of a fairy tale. They twirl in the tall wheat. They twirl in the weeds. They twirl in the suburban yard and amongst horses at a ranch. Enough twirling, and giggling and prancing and bouncing and being THAT kind of unreal woman…OK, I got that off my chest.
Now, for the good stuff. The complications of a relationship are often superficially wrestled with in stories of all kinds. People making choices that affect one another is usually the way writers and directors tell us about their characters in hopes of getting us interested and invested. Malick is not that kind of writer/director, clearly. The internal life of a person in a relationship is always a mystery, even in my own marriage. We don’t know every thought and expectation of each other, and saying it or showing it all just will never be enough to tap into it all. The characters in To The Wonder say very little, while saying more than we can even really take in, if I’m honest.
The up close and personal camera work at times feels invasive but important to get at a certain claustrophobic vibe. In a flicker we are farther away, floating a bit watching over a shoulder, hearing only footsteps and the subtle sound track. These moments are left for interpretation and that’s when the movie wins me over the most. I am clued into a few details about our leading man, his job, his pattern with women, his reservations and fears. All this comes from mostly silent moments watching him, seeing his facial expressions as he copes with different circumstances. The same goes for the leading ladies. Ignore the twirling and attempts at making them seem ethereal and almost angel-like, and get down to their own personal struggles. We don’t hear them say very much, well, enough at the right times, but really we are seeing them struggle from the inside out with their feelings of elation of being in love and devastation of rejection. It’s hard to explain, and that’s the point.
It’s hard to explain real human emotions. We feel and perceive things that could never be put into words on a piece of paper or floated in movie pictures on a big screen. Some writers and directors do an amazing job of finding our commonalities, finding those things that are universal in humans so that we connect with who we are watching, it’s just that we all know there are hidden moments, feelings we can’t describe, darker, or fleeting, and I do think Mallick taps into those very well.
The cast is amazing, so I don’t need to sing their praises too much. As I mentioned there isn’t a lot of dialogue so the performances rely on a lot of emotion, expression, body language, and I’ll be the one to say that Ben Affleck is so underrated, so I rate him in this for sure:). Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams are, at times, too idealized in their femininity and almost childlike behavior, but that’s not a problem with their performances. They do an excellent job of showing the depths of their excitement and disappointments, and without a lot of words that can’t be easy. Javier Bardem, as always, is a magnet for my eyes. He’s compelling, quiet, distinct, commanding and yet so understated. I could watch him as a one man show!
Overall To The Wonder is thrilling in its own way. It taps into some feelings, if you are open to them, that other movies don’t quite reach for. It looks lovely, even with the stark realities of suburban developments in America, construction sites, overgrown fields, run down neighborhoods, the eye of this director lets us see these things in a different way, which adds to the quality of the movie. I say watch it, let it just happen, don’t question it, don’t resist….when it’s over you can think about it, which is always a bonus from a movie these days.
- The Making Of To The Wonder – To The Wonder like Tree Of Life throws up many questions about life the universe and relationships. But my question is does Terrance Malick exist? During all the features on this disc everyone talks about him but we never get to see the man himself. This making of explores everything about the movie with interviews from all the leading players (except Malick)
- The Actor’s Experience – If you watch the first featurette on the disc, this one is re purposed from all the same interviews.
- The Ballet – Malick’s unique way of making a film is referred to here as “The Ballet” It’s referred to as a dance which includes multiple elements. Sounds a little pretentious to me but hey.
- Local Flavor – To The Wonder was filmed in the small town of Bartlesville in Oklahoma. Javier Badem’s character gets to interact with the real people in the town in this short featurette.
- Theatrical Trailer
Cover Art and Menus: /10
Boring cover art for such an intriguing movie. The menu is the same. I would not have that cover as a poster. There are so many other possible lovely images to be used, and yet, they did not.
Audio & Video: 9/10
Whatever you think about Malick’s divisive work you can’t deny how beautiful his cinematography really is. As I was watching the film his camera lovingly panned up alongside a suburban house and rested to look at a air conditioning unit, only Malick can make an air conditioner look wondrous and that is where this movie shines. The 1080P AVC encode that Magnolia have on this BD50 disc is nothing short of breathtaking, shot mainly on 35mm this is as true to the source as you can possibly imagine. Fine detail is astounding, Malick’s tendency to shoot back-lit at the golden hour looks inviting in every scene. There are no signs of ringing, DNR or anything untoward that alter the movie in anyway. In short To The Wonder like Tree Of Life is a visual feast on Blu-Ray.
As with The Tree Of Life before it, To The Wonder starts with a message from the producers of the movie to turn the volume up loud. You should pay attention to this message as Terrance Malick is as known for his enveloping sound-stage as much as he is for his gorgeous visuals. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track here is slightly puzzling as the European release of the movie got the 7.1 treatment. But what we do have here is a ethereal soundtrack that features lots of classical music and narration. Ambient sound penetrates this track with everything from the aforementioned air conditioner to the rumble of as train or the tolling of a church bell. This film is mostly void of dialog but the narration that does occur on occasion is clear and centered and easy to understand.
To The Wonder is a rental. I think if you want to watch it over and over you will buy it regardless of the price. If you want to experience it and soak it up, and then just let it marinade in your brain for a while, renting it online is the way to go.
Overall Score 8/10