"You got me out of the darkness. You gathered me up from earth. You've brought me back to life."
I'm not a fan of Terrence Malick, but there is no denying that Tree of Life was his masterpiece, a beautifully shot film, which I really liked. I was surprised to hear that To the Wonder was coming out so soon considering that Malick usually takes about 6 to 7 years to work in between films. To the Wonder is a beautifully shot film, with poetic imagery about love, and it's something that the director has shown us before, but the narrative really takes a blow here and I found it very difficult to make connections between some of these characters. I love Javier Bardem and Rachel McAdams, but the way their characters were edited in this film made them both feel completely misplaced. It was a difficult experience to sit through the two hours of this film despite all the artistic and beautiful imagery due to the narrative. If you've never seen a Malick film you will not enjoy this, but if you appreciate his work you might love this poetic film. I would recommend you watching The Tree of Life which is really the only film of his I liked along with The Thin Red Line. Be warned, To the Wonder is not an easy watch, but the cinematography is amazing.
The narrative of the film kind of plays out like a series of memories with several images and musical backgrounds with very few dialogues and some voice over narrations from main characters. The entire film feels like a series of dream sequences, and some really don't connect with the rest of the film. The sequences begin in France where we witness how love blossoms between Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), characters whose names we only know because they are mentioned in the credits. Neil asks Marina to return to the States with him along with her young daughter Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline). Once they are back in Oklahoma we see how the perfect romance begins to crumble although its hard to figure out how much time has elapsed considering the narrative structure. Neil reconnects with a High School sweetheart named Jane (Rachel McAdams) and Marina returns to France once her Visa expires. The film also introduces a Spanish priest, Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), struggling with his faith in Oklahoma. While Marina was living with Neil she would often visit his Church and that is how Malick makes the connection with his character, who I thought felt out of place.
To the Wonder probably ranks amongst Malick's weakest efforts (I would rate it slightly above The New World), but it still is a visually stunning film, and yet another sort of autobiographical Malick film. If you've seen a Malick film before then you probably know what to expect from him and this film was pretty much a copy of his other efforts. Malick gets really philosophical once again with this film and shares some beautiful imagery, but it really didn't connect with me. I love artistic films, but have trouble identifying with them if there is no narrative structure which was the case with To the Wonder. I need more than just poetic imagery, and I didn't feel it in this film. I do have to admit that the score of the film was beautiful as well.