The Wonder (2022)

The Wonder
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writer: Emma Donoghue, Sebastián Lelio, Alice Birch
Based on: Emma Donoghue’s novel
Cast: Florence Pugh, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Tom Burke, David Wilmot, Ruth Bradley, Toby Jones, Dermot Crowley, Ciarán Hinds, Brían F. O’Byrne, Josie Walker, Elaine Cassidy, Niamh Algar
Seen on: 10.12.2022

Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) is a no-nonsense nurse who has been hired to watch Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy) in a small town in Ireland. Anna is said not to have eaten for months, instead being fed by manna from heaven. Lib’s watch that she shares with Sister Michael (Josie Walker) is supposed to determine whether Anna is lying or whether it is actually a miracle. Lib takes that job very seriously but not everybody wants her to find out the truth.

The Wonder is a well-made film with a fantastic performance by Pugh. Apart from a few moments, I was at the edge of my seat as I watched it, intrigued with the story and where it would lead.

The film poster showing Lib (Florence Pugh) holding Anna's (Kíla Lord Cassidy) face.

The Wonder comments on the stories we tell and that we choose to believe, even when we know that they are stories. I am not sure whether it is always all that clear in what it is trying to say but it is certainly interesting enough to try to puzzle it out when it isn’t. It also questions us as observers of a story, of other people, and when it is time to stop observing and start acting. Observing, watching already makes us part of the story – and that gives us a certain responsibility to not be passive, to not leave ourselves at the mercy of a story.

It’s certainly highly symbolic and a film that I’m sure film scholars will enjoy discussing and dissecting for years to come. On a more prosaic and direct level, the film is a very good mystery that kept me guessing a little. Along with Lib, I assumed that there must be a worldly explanation but I wasn’t 100% certain – I mean, it is a film that we watch after all, and it makes very clear in the beginning that it wants us to believe something. But even when the film shows its cards, it doesn’t lose tension, because then it becomes about something else: what do we do with that knowledge, especially in the light of the behavior around us? And that is no less interesting to watch.

Lib (Florence Pugh) and Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy) talking to William (Tom Burke).

Pugh gives a great performance, as usual. Her Lib is emotional and competent. She doesn’t back down and does what she believes is right, even it the face of adversity. Lib’s tragic backstory felt a bit underwritten though. With such a difficult topic, I think I would have preferred if they hadn’t included it at all instead of handling it a bit clumsily. Equally underwritten were pretty much all of the characters apart from Lib, and maybe Anna. Surprisingly, Lib’s impromptu romance with journalist William (Tom Burke) works anyway.

There are a few moments where the film loses steam and the pacing isn’t right, though it always manages to recover from them. And those moments are more than made up for by the film’s fantastic look and its great ambition.

Lib (Florence Pugh) talking to Sister Michael (Josie Walker).

Summarizing: always interesting.

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