Monday, July 21, 2014

To The Wonder (2012)

A sort of cinematic tone poem by Terrence Malick on love and relationships, following the unpleasant disintegration of a marriage between Neil (a miscast Ben Affleck), a environmental inspector working in the oil fields of Oklahoma, and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a young woman whom he met while on vacation in France. Re-located to Oklahoma with her daughter, Marina is uncomfortable in her new surroundings, and attempts to find guidance in a local priest (Javier Bardem) who is struggling with his own faith. Having set up this premise early on, Malick explores the themes and ideas with his usually rich visual style, but the approach too often feels unfocused. All the elements are here, but they never quite fall into place. Malick also undercuts his strong visual poetry with the voice-over narration, which distracts from the effects he is already able to convey through the images. The film is further hindered by the leading performances. To be fair, the characters are difficult to do too much with, as they rarely seem to be called on to act as little more than blank slates, but Affleck is simply too one-note, while Kurylenko's performance contains a kind of empty, surface-level charm but lacks the depth to create a fully realized character. Malick is most effective at depicting the regional milieu and how it drives a cultural wedge between the two characters . An interesting if ultimately unsatisfying film.

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