Monday 1 July 2024

Movie Review: The Wonder (2022)

Genre: Drama  
Director: Sebastian Lelio  
Starring: Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kila Lord Cassidy  
Running Time: 103 minutes  

Synopsis: It's the 1860s, and English nurse Elizabeth Wright (Florence Pugh) accepts a two-week assignment in rural Ireland to keep watch over Anna O'Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy), a girl who is healthy despite apparently not eating for months. Elizabeth is to report her findings to a group of community men, including a local doctor (Toby Jones) and a religious leader. Elizabeth is a young widow herself coping with trauma, and finds the O'Donnell family deeply religious. As she starts to uncover Anna's secrets, newspaper man William Byrne (Tom Burke) arrives to cover the story.

What Works Well: This compelling mystery is wrapped in rustic blankets of uneducated religious fervor, muddy rural isolation, patriarchal incompetence, and fallout from loss and sin. Director Sebastian Lelio and his co-writer Emma Donoghue (the screenplay is based on her book) maintain a brisk rhythm of revelations, the trudgerous terrain and grim candlelit interiors adding toil to Elizabeth's adventure. Florence Pugh excels in casting a caustic eye at shrouded cultural norms, and Kila Lord Cassidy surfaces a young girl's tortured strength.

What Does Not Work As Well: The book-end scenes intended to underline the universality of storytelling are unnecessary and fall flat. Elizabeth's back-story is only partially leveraged, and plenty of incidents are crammed into a rushed ending.

Conclusion: Weighty in substance, agile in delivery.

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