The wonder

The wonder
Original title:The wonder
Director:Sebastián Lelio
Running time:103 minutes
Release date:02 november 2022
In 1862, 13 years after the Great Famine. Lib Wright, an English nurse, is called to the Irish Midlands by a devout community to spend 15 days with one of their own. Anna O'Donnell is an 11-year-old girl who claims to have eaten nothing for four months and miraculously survived. As Anna's health rapidly deteriorates, Lib is determined to discover the truth, upsetting the faith of a community that would rather stick to its beliefs.

Mulder's Review

Rare are the films that transcend the simple fact of being an entertainment to impose themselves as a masterful work as soon as they are discovered. Certainly the new film by director and screenwriter Sebastián Lelio (Oscar winner for his film A Fantastic Woman in 2018) proves to be a fascinating film about Religion, reconstituted family, abused childhood and above all a portrait of a strong, beautiful and courageous woman who manages to impose herself in a 19th century society dominated by men and by religious principles which pushed to excess become dangerous and betray the strong values of these. Adapting to the screen the book The Wonder by Emma Donoghue, the writers Emma Donoghue, Alice Birch and Sebastián Lelio have worked together to give life to a film that is as bewitching as it is original. 

After a very original beginning showing a film set, the film plunges us into 1862 in the Irish Midlands. We follow an English nurse Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) who is called in to watch over a young girl, Anna O'Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), eleven years old who has stopped eating for several months but remains miraculously alive and well. In this tiny village, Anna O'Donnell has become a local attraction for many tourists and pilgrims who see her as a true saint. Lib Wright must put aside her prejudices and Cartesian principles to better understand the mystery surrounding Anna O'Donnell. After losing her child and her husband, Lib Wright has devoted herself completely to her profession and is not looking to rebuild a family. However, the arrival of a journalist, Will Byrne (Tom Burke), also marked like her by a tragedy will not only influence her life but also create a strong bond between this young child and her two adults.

If The Wonder manages to conquer us from the very first minutes and to draw us totally into its tortuous story in which religion and its excesses occupy an important place, it is because of the way director Sebastián Lelio reveals himself to be a gifted storyteller who at no time underestimates either the rhythm of the film or its superb photography of a past era in which today's society was beginning to emerge. Far from being a simple psychological thriller inspired by the 19th century "fasting women" phenomenon and adapted from Emma Donoghue's acclaimed novel, The Wonder turns out to be simply one of the best films of this year to the point of regretting not having been able to discover it in theaters before seeing it again on the Netflix streaming platform.

The success of this film is also due to its female lead performer Florence Pugh, who made a name for herself with another costume film, Lady Macbeth (2016) in which she radiated this film with a masterful presence and acting worthy of the greatest. Far from focusing only on blockbusters from the beginning of her career, this immense actress was able to find independent films that allowed her to approach several genres and develop her art. Whether it is films like The Commuter (2016), Outlaw King (2018), Fighting with My Family (2019), Midsommar (2019), Little Women (2019) or American blockbusters like Black Widow (2021), Don't Worry Darling (2022) and soon the highly anticipated Oppenheimer (2023), Dune part two (2023), Florence Pugh has been able to build an almost perfect filmography and constantly renew herself in the manner of Meryl Streep who has alternated between independent films and Hollywood films. She brings all her grace, fragility and strong presence to her character of a nurse who wants to find the truth about this young child. Her new role reminds us a lot of the magnificent Lady Macbeth and shows her willingness to find strong, more mature and not necessarily overly commercial roles to be able to blossom in her acting career.

The director Sebastián Lelio through his last films seem to attract by films staging strong independent women in the center of the story and he knew how to surround himself with excellent actresses and especially get the best of them. Certainly the director saw in the actress Florence Pugh her immense potential and their collaboration instantly gives this film a very special aura. The director also paid great attention to give his historical reenactment a great importance. While many current films are becoming more of a relentless barrage of special effects for lack of attention to a remarkable writing and actors invested, The Wonder is certainly one of the most beautiful surprises of this year and especially consecrates the actress Florence Pugh as one of the best current. Far from constantly trying to put herself forward, she brings a real presence to her character and succeeds in moving us and making us simply adore this very beautiful film.

The Wonder
Directed by Sebastián Lelio
Screenplay by Emma Donoghue, Alice Birch, Sebastián Lelio
Based on The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Produced by Ed Guiney, Tessa Ross, Juliette Howell, Andrew Lowe
Starring Florence Pugh, Niamh Algar, David Wilmot, Ruth Bradley, Darcey Campion, Abigail Coburn, Carla Hurley O'Dwyer, Juliette Hurley O'Dwyer, Carly Kane, Toby Jones, Dermot Crowley, Ciarán Hinds, Brían F. O'Byrne, Josie Walker, Elaine Cassidy, Caolan Byrne, John Burke, Kíla Lord Cassidy
Cinematography : Ari Wegner
Music by Matthew Herbert
Production companies : Element Pictures, House Productions, Screen Ireland, Access Entertainment
Distributed by Netflix
Release dates : September 2, 2022 (Telluride), November 2, 2022 (United States), November 16, 2022 (Netflix)
Running time : 103 minutes

Seen on November 15, 2022 (Netflix press screener)

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