Where I watched It: Netflix
Audio Description Provided By: international Digital Center
written By: Dakota Green
The audio description on this film was really good. All my issues with the movie lie within the story and decisions made by the screenwriter and director, not the narration. The film itself is bleak, the narration was very modest and respectful, and it managed to always keep a level approach to what some might consider a faith versus science film. It’s hard to know how much the character of Anna deteriorates in front of visual eyes, but she’s always somewhat mobile, so I’m guessing not much.
The film opens in an odd way, reminding you through narration that you are watching a film called The Wonder. Then, the film launches into this period piece about a nurse (Florence Pugh), commissioned by the doctor of a young girl, the aforementioned Anna, and the Catholic Church to bear witness to her hunger strike. Anna claims she is being fed by manna from heaven, but it just looks like she’s starving.
If that’s all this was, it would probably work. Instead, it tries to be… something. IMDB calls this a psychological thriller, but that’s a stretch. Pugh’s nurse has suffered loss herself, so she relates to the family of Anna, who recently lost their son, which may or may not be inspiring Anna to do what she is doing. I’m not spoiling shit here.
But, when the film feels normal, like a slow period drama, it takes a minute to make you wonder if you just accidentally stumbled into an A24 film for a scene or two. It has these weird moments where Pugh’s character is all alone, and the spirit or something is coasting through her, and the scenes make little sense or bear little relevance… unless you look at the end of the film. Then, you wonder what the hell you’ve just seen.
Another element throwing a wrench is that Pugh’s nurse is given a love interest of sorts, but at first she’s really short with him, and it seems like in every successive scene they have fallen even more madly in love, despite the film not caring enough to truly invest in their plot. his character always seems like a distraction, so when he’s made relevant at the end, the journey just didn’t pay off.
Florence Pugh, in her second film where she carries the entire fucking thing, is still great. Although, I prefer her more dynamic performance in Don’t Worry Darling, as The Wonder can’t decide what it wants from its characters, or what kind of film it wants to be. The ending to the film gets more and more baffling, and then leaves you with a final beat that makes you question if any of this ever really mattered at all.
Remember, this film addresses the fact at the beginning quite openly that it is a film, so the ending really makes good on that statement. But just because you’ve made that promise doesn’t mean it was always the right decision from the beginning. The Wonder always seems like it’s trying to derail itself, somehow, and even though it’s not a long film, the simplicity of what the core of the film is asking of you is rather basic, making the film consistently feel like it is stretching for time.
I really didn’t like anything about this, except maybe for Pugh’s commitment to the character. The girl who plays Anna is nice, but mostly she just has to talk softly, be frail, and pretend to slowly be fading away. Her most emotionally impactful moment is delivered in such a way that the character doesn’t even know there’s a real problem, or to be reactionary toward it. instead, she’s like a wallflower, a small girl just fading away. She does play that very well, but I’m not sure there’s anything special about it. Pugh’s character is at least given a bunch of random complexities ranging from her duty to being a nurse, to still dealing with the loss of a loved one.
I might be a lot lower on this than some other critics. This is supposed to be Oscar bait. look, I hated Spencer also, and I thought Kristen Stewart was awful in that. So, this is just a preference thing, but I wouldn’t recommend The Wonder, when there are so many other great films this year to still be watched. If you have Netflix, and you are trying to choose between The Wonder or all Quiet On The Western Front, there really shouldn’t even be a discussion.
Use your Netflix subscription more wisely.
Final Grade: D