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Whispers and pretty images DO NOT make a movie!!!
levyhc5 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is a great movie ..... FOR SELLING TVS!!! I cannot find any other good use for this excuse of a movie.

I'm not kidding, in a point of the film, they run out of landscapes footages and they throw some TURTLES at us! SERIOUSLY?!?! I mean, what does the poor turtle has to do with anything? I just hope the turtle's payment was at least as big as Ben's, because they get about the same number of lines. Or should I say whispers.

That's another thing in this movie that is incredibly annoying: there are no dialogues! Only some random whisperings.

The Tree of Life was bad, but To the Wonder takes it to a whole new level of badness!

Summary: "I love you." (silence) "Let's get married." (more silence) "I need a visa." (Guess what? More silence) Then she leaves. There is also a random priest going through some middle age crisis.

And they make it goes for 2 hours by adding a bunch of Nat Geo footages.

Just a final comment: PLEASE, IF YOU DIDN'T GET THE MOVIE, IT DOES NOT MEAN IT IS A GOOD OR A CULT MOVIE! I don't know how anyone can give this movie a 10. It's like "I've no idea what the movie was about, so it must have been good." or "if I say I didn't get it, people will think I dumb."

And I don't respect who give it a 5 by saying "the story deserves a 0, but it is so pretty that I will give it a 5". They are saying that no matter what you throw at then, if it is mixed with some 'LED TVs add material', it deserves at least 5.
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To the Wonder is an empty shell
artalways25 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Attending the official screening at the 'Sala Grande' at the Venice film festival. The applause for the attending actors finally stops and I find myself waiting with some excitement for a film created by one of the most praised directors of the moment, lining up some great names like Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko. I was also expecting another great actress to appear on the screen, Rachel Weisz. I would soon find out that she was being cut out, and some more were. It is not the first time this happens. Malick has a notable history of cutting actors out of his films, which is of course his good right.

After a typical romantic scene in Paris, more resembling a travel advert then anything else, I start to get nervous. Why? Because the romantic blah-blah doesn't seem to stop. An overhead voice speaking french doesn't make a movie artistic. Loosely filmed scenes in corn fields are not per definition beautiful.

Kurylenko, in the role of Marina, comes to the hometown of Neil (Affleck), some nowhere ville in Oklahoma where they continue their fairytale romance. Kurylenko is constantly doing little dances and pirouettes on the street, or where-ever she is located. Giggling, singing, hopping on the bed, and looking over her shoulder while laughing towards the camera. That kind of sums it up, since Affleck hardly speaks a word. He is just the typical guy and she is just the typical so called-artistic-french-loving-and-beautiful girl. After she and her daughter return to Paris, he has a identical affair with his hometown sweetheart (McAdams), as if super attractive women are just available everywhere. Then Kurylenko returns, because she needs a Greencard. Explained in just one very meaningful phrase "Forgive me" they have a fight. Also very typical (but yes, finally some action!). Of course some kind of vase is shattered and its all tears and gestures.

Then suddenly Javier Bardem appears as a priest seeking spiritual fulfillment in a church. These scenes seem detached from the rest of the story, although the same church is visited by other characters. Some cleaning personnel and people who are 'worn down by life' are also given some screen time, placed randomly into the movie (in high contrast to the blazing beauty of the main characters).

The religious undertone becomes stronger and stronger towards the end of the movie, making it all too clear that love and religion are one and the same. And that all of the Hallmark-inspired beauty seen before must be powered by the divine.

Enforcing religion onto an audience reminds me of brainwashing, and it is something I cannot appreciate. Showing religion in a movie is no problem; since it is a part of most people's lives, but trying to emotionally convey someone to a certain religion, doesn't matter which one, should be a priest's job not a film director's.

I must say I admire the wish to look upon cinema in new ways, and I can see very clearly what the idea was for making this movie: Malick tries to tell a story by not showing the key moments, conversations or explanations: he shows the in-between. The silent moments, 'life'.

This is how the movie fails: there doesn't seem to anything in-between. The emotions seem empty, love seems superficial, religion is fake.

The thing is, I applaud to art cinema, I am very much fond of romantic stories, I love it when a filmmaker pays attention to cinematography. Maybe all of this made me more disappointed in "To The Wonder" then anyone else.

After it was finished some applause but also loud booing was heard from the audience. I sure wasn't the only one frustrated and appalled by this movie.
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Wonderful visuals don't make a good story
themissingpatient7 May 2013
TO THE WONDER is the new film from master writer/director Terrence Malick. The story begins with Ben Affleck's character, Neil, in Paris where he falls in-love with a single mother named Marina, played by the beautiful Olga Kurylenko. Neil brings his new love and her daughter, Tatiana, back home with him to the United States. When Marina's visa expires and Affleck's character is reluctant to marry her, Marina and her daughter return to Paris. Neil begins spending his time with a childhood friend, Jane, played by Rachel McAdams. However Jane is a woman of great faith, a faith that Neil does not share. Back in Paris, Tatiana leaves to go live with her father and Marina becomes depressed, longing to return to the US to try to work things out with Neil. It is at this point that the story falls apart.

It's impossible not to compare TO THE WONDER to THE TREE OF LIFE simply because the two films are shot in the exact same style. Beautiful shots and gorgeous cinematography accompanied by a classical score and poetic voice-overs from the characters. The Tree of Life was and is not only a masterpiece, but one of the greatest films to ever be made. I thought maybe To The Wonder was a little too soon for another Malick epic but I do not believe that is the case as far as why this film fails.

The two characters I felt for and wanted to see more of was Javier Bardem's Father Quintana and Rachel McAdams' Jane. Here we have a priest struggling in his relationship with God and a woman who has suffered through the grief and loss of a child, yet has found a way to continue living in harmony with great faith. These highly interesting characters are under-used as the film focuses more on Neil and Marina, who by the end of the film, we begin to hate.

The actors do not help the film tell it's story, it almost seems like they walked on-set without a script and improvised their parts. In Tree Of Life we had Jessica Chastain, Sean Penn and Brad Pitt giving the performances of a lifetime, not through dialogue, but simply through facial expression, movement and body language. There wasn't a need for scenes of dialogue, the story was understood. With To The Wonder, I was craving a scene of dialogue towards the end. I didn't want to believe Affleck and Kurylenko's characters were as shallow and selfish as they seemed, I wanted and felt I deserved to know more about them and why they continued to struggle. Why are they so frustrated and angry?

No matter how abstract or convoluted a film is, I've never had an issue coming to some sort of an understanding and usually, the more a film leaves open for me to interpret myself, the more I respect the film. However, To The Wonder leaves us with two characters we no longer have any reason to care for and the film gives us no way to understand or relate to them in the end.
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john_in_oz23 February 2013
I have always wondered about people who give one star reviews. Is it for the extra attention? Is it a joke? Can a movie really deserve one star?

Well finally I have seen a movie which simply does not permit me to give it any more than one star. A movie that has prompted me to create an IMDb account and write this review so that other cinema goers do not have to share the mind numbing agony of my experience.

My woes stem from the fact that "To the Wonder" seems to be an experiment into expressing nothing but the emotions of love and loss. Initially this seems a noble cause, but it comes at the expense of plot, dialogue and even character development. So if you sit through the first 30 minutes thinking "I wonder if anything is going to happen?", sadly the answer is "no".

There seems to be the assumption that an audience can share in the on screen emotion without ever being given access to the motivations and events which led to them. It is like watching The English Patient and trying to understand Ralph Fiennes' emotional turmoil without being shown the flashbacks of his life before hospital. So without any narrative or dialogue, the poor actors are left trying to convey their emotions by looking gloomy (as Ben Affleck does for the entire movie) or by performing pirouettes and looking wistfully into glinting autumn sunshine (for Olga Kurylenko).

If you are a huge fan of the back of Ben Affleck's head, you'll love this movie. For me the only enjoyment was in the irony that a film about emotion should be so emotionally uninvolving. That and the joy of seeing the end credits finally roll, upon which I punched the air and shouted "Yes!" This is something I have never felt the need to do before in a cinema, and it certainly surprised my wife (who looked mortified). I didn't care. This film marked a new found level of tedium, so extreme that it should probably be reserved for Guantanamo Bay. One star tedium? You bet.
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Love is an ancient mistake...
Serge_Zehnder15 April 2013
...wrote french author Victor Hugo and Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" seems at times to agree and at times wanting disprove that quote. As ancient as the mistake of falling in love appears to be, as unavoidable and necessary it is. In his impressionistic style which will enrapture some and drive most insane, this latest piece of work by one of America's most unusual filmmakers continues his exploration of emotional truths, identity, intimacy and individual freedom which leads us into ever changing emotional states.

Without a clear structure or narrative but accompanied by breathtaking images, a very expressive music and ambient soundtrack and extremely subtle performances, are we drawn into the lives of a business man (Ben Affleck), a Russian expatriate (Olga Kurylenko), the daughter of a farm owner (Rache McAdams) and the priest of a small town in Oklahoma (Javier Bardem). Their thoughts and struggles on love, commitment, God and marriage along with their the fights and atonement are presented in fractured moments that reveal the various elements of human contradiction which constantly tear us in two directions at the same time. We want freedom and comfort, love and domesticity, desire and stability. The compromise lies in accepting which side of us is the one that defines us the most and if we can live, at least partly, with the lack of the other, in order to achieve as Bardem's Father Quintana puts it:"The love that never changes."

Amidst this metaphysical and highly personal journey Malick gives us not only a sense of the "wonder of love" but also celebrates our sense of wonder in general. Our ability to be overwhelmed by our emotions for another person, nature or even God.

"To the Wonder" is a film about faiths in many shapes and strives for that forgiveness that elates our disappointments and resentments in order to finally love in a state of personal liberty and acceptance.

A movie for a few with a theme for everybody.
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Beautiful cinematography combined with pretentious nonsense
lornloxor14 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is closest to a silent film that I've ever seen. The "plot" is really simple. Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) fall for each other in Paris and then they move to Oklahoma where Neil works. You really couldn't have made a more obvious comparison between the old world with Paris and the new world with Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Marina doesn't really enjoy it there and they grow apart. Neil rekindles his love with an old crush, Jane (Rachel McAdams). It doesn't work out and Neil and Marina get together again. The characters also meet with a priest (Javier Bardem) who is having a crisis of faith.

Ben Affleck looks like he's been hit on the head with a shovel for most of the movie. He just walks around dazed, not really there. Olga Kurylenko just spins and runs in fields, streets and parks giggling and smiling at the same time with Affleck's character following her nearby. They also stare at each other a lot, wide-eyed and wistful. I mean for real, there's only a certain amount of this stuff that I can take seriously. Javier Bardem is the cliché priest, trying to speak to God through inane ruminations on faith. Feeling he's there but seeing nothing, 'Show us how to seek you' and so on. This isn't interesting in the slightest. Rachel McAdams, well she's there for a bit and then she's gone again. The overly poetic and pretentious voice-overs are like a self-parody of Malick's style with platitudes like 'What is this love that loves us' going on and on. Affleck and Kurylenko don't even look like people who could be saying those things. During the whole movie I just thought they'd fit perfectly to a high class perfume advertisement. You might believe they'd speak like they do in the voice-overs if there was any proper characterization. The motivations and histories of these characters are unclear. There's no real dialogue between the characters and it was impossible for me to care what happens to any of them. The actors don't really have much to do except silently look at each other.

The film is beautiful visually but it ultimately feels empty. Many of the shots seem completely unrelated to anything. Rainwater falling in a drain, a shot of a puddle, a street light in the dark, an run-down house, a row of houses in some random neighborhood, a classical pot during the sunset. What is the point of all these shots? Maybe they're shot with skill but they're utterly pointless. Malick's Thin Red Line is a masterpiece and it actually used these kind of beautiful shots to contrast the destructiveness of man with how nature simply goes on anyway despite all of this and it was brilliant and quite profound. The line between profound and pretentious can be extremely thin though and in To The Wonder Malick went way over it to pretentious-land. What really worries me now is that after seeing this pretentious nonsense I can't go back to the Thin Red Line and enjoy it as much as I have because I'll keep thinking about this movie. What's also bugging me is the constant use of magic hour shots. Sure it's beautiful but to fill the entire movie with them? Again, it's like someone who doesn't like Malick's filming style went out of his way to parody him. Cinematography itself isn't enough, it should serve a compelling story. I wasn't just looking for beautiful images, I was looking for a movie.
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A Boring, Senseless Non-movie
Mersrch12 August 2013
Surely the creators of this disaster decided to have a joke at the public's expense and produced a caricature of an artsy-totsy film just to see how many people would take it seriously. It manages to incorporate just about every cinematic cliché known to man, over and over again. Scene after scene of people twirling through fields, sunsets, and enough interiors of houses to fill up Architectural Digest for a year. It's like some guy going bonkers with his first video camera. And overwrought and melodramatic dialogue that would get you thrown out of a freshman creative writing course. No human being remotely speaks like this.

This movie represents directorial narcissism and self-indulgence at its worst. I think it was released in April, reinforcing my belief that it's one big April Fools joke.
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dansview7 September 2013
Like other reviewers, I am not opposed to alternative ways of telling a story. Less dialog, more imagery and more music is fine. But you still have to fill in some details. This one doesn't.

Why do reviewers keep saying that the woman was a Russian expatriate in Paris? Because the actress is Ukranian? I didn't catch any dialog explaining that she was anything other than French. Why do they keep saying that the second part of the movie was in Bartlesville, Oklahoma? I never heard any mention of the state or the town. I understand that it was filmed there, but the movie didn't tell me anything about it.

What the hell was the guy doing in Paris? What is wrong with the woman? She seems a little bit retarded. She keeps twirling around in circles like she is not fully engaged in the reality of life. Is it because she is a bohemian, Parisian existentialist poet, or just immature, or what? What does the guy do for a living? He seems to take samples of pond water and weeds. Is he doing the geological survey for a building project? There are no normal conversations in this film. Much of it is whispered in French, with subtitles about the mystery of love and loneliness. After the pretentious and petulant non-French, French woman leaves the film for a bit, Rachel Adams emerges with no makeup. Then she too begins whispering about the nature of love and loss.

Javier Bardem has a compelling screen presence in most of his work and in this one he looks troubled and pensive. I would have loved to find out more about this character's life. A priest in a small town might feel very lonely.

I do understand that the Director and Writer are trying to show lonely, lost souls and make some statement about how we are all looking to connect to something... be it a city, a romance, God, or a poetic version of life. But I can't watch that for 90 minutes without going stark raving mad.

Yes, the cinematography was nice. I liked that the annoying French girl actually said that she was sick of Paris. Film makers love to portray Paris as the Garden of Eden, but it is not a coastal city. It gets gloomy and cold, and there are loads of angry ethnics on fixed incomes.

I actually think the semi-porn "Nine Songs" does a bit better job of showing the initial obsession of a love affair and the ugly decline when boredom and routine set in with immature, shallow people.

Stay away.
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Explain nothing, show everything. A great ethereal love story.
Balthazar-58 March 2013
Some people say that film is like a language, but that is not exactly right, it is like language itself, and just as there are different languages, there are different cinemas. It seems to me that, in his last two films, Terrence Malick has been creating a very special type of cinema, that had hitherto existed only in an embryonic form. While most films have maybe 50-100 scenes, replete with dialogue and action, Malick's new cinema (MNC) has over twice that number of scenes, but they are fragmentary and consist of only the essence of meaning that was in a scene that would normally have been much longer. This can be sometimes several minutes or only a couple of brief shots.

Last evening I drove the 25 miles to see the early performance of 'To the Wonder'. I did that with the intention of returning to write this review while the film was still fresh in my mind. But after it I was so drained that I couldn't write a summary, let alone a review. At the current (late) stage in my life, what interests me most about the cinema is its limits. How far can the cinema go, and what exactly is a film?

Given the above, Terrence Malick is evidently the man for me, and I am convinced that 'The Tree of Life' is among the five greatest works of this greatest of the arts. So, after a masterpiece 30 years in the gestation and three + in the creation, how would Malick fare with a film relatively thrown together in a year or so?

On the face of it, this is a story of the relationship which starts in Paris between an American (environmentalist?), Neil, and an otherworldly French woman (Marina). When they return to mid-west America, Marina suffers from a sense of dislocation made greater when he daughter decides to go and live with her father in France.

But Malick seems much less interested in the *events* which he depicts than in expressing the feelings of the characters. Just the same way that 'The Tree of Life' was an *impression* of childhood, rather than the story of a childhood, 'To the Wonder' is an impression of a love affair, rather than its story. This is cinema infused in every shot with Heidegger's *dasein*. The logic of Malick's cinema is to *perfectly* catch the moment, and in doing so extract the truth of the experience. Hence, for Malick, a film story, is simply an assembly of 'essences'. These essences stay in the mind to thrill and haunt us.

There have been other examples of great filmmakers who have made films exploring the cinema's intimate connection with mental processes - Resnais and Bunuel come immediately to mind. But with Malick, it seems, the cinema's similarity to the mental processes of memory, dream and conjecture, have ignited a wildfire of creativity that has advanced the film art at a greater pace than has occurred since the sixties.

Here I have to admit to being only at the beginning of being able to appreciate what seems to be dizzying complexities in the film. My French is not up to totally understanding much of Marina's dialogue which, as I am in France, was not translated in the subtitles, so I am sure I have missed an entire dimension of the film. But Olga Kurylenko's performance is so magnificent, that this 'comprehension gap' didn't seem a problem.

Then there is the obvious question of the film's theme. Love, the very 'different' nature of women, dislocation in the physical, emotional and cultural senses - these are all up there writ large. But they are mixed with a nagging worry that, to return to my earlier concern, Malick has stretched the cinema to its limits, but sometimes, maybe beyond them. I do not think of myself as stupid, but I found great difficulty in grasping the relevance of certain shots or scenes. I rest convinced, however that this is another example of a film that it is necessary to watch dozens of times to find all of the poetic and meaningful connections.

I have great sympathy with those who go to the cinema wanting to be told a great story in the clearest manner possible. That is honourable and reasonable, but it is not the only experience that the cinema, this great and wonderful art of the cinema, can give. And it is certainly NOT the case that films that don't take the more prosaic approach are pretentious, meaningless or boring. 'To the Wonder' is to popular cinema what lyric poetry is to airport novels. So, if that is all you are looking for, it is best to avoid Malick's film.

But for those of us who know that beyond the sky is the limit for great cinema, Malick and MNC is the route to the stars, and 'To the Wonder' is a step, if a somewhat halting one, along that route.
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Write on Water
ferguson-63 May 2013
Greetings again from the darkness. Director Terrence Malick makes films that typically fall into the "love it or hate it" genre. He has a very loyal group of fans (of which I am one) who appreciate the unique mental and emotional ride that his projects provide. To say that his films are not accessible is understandable. His objective is to challenge you to access your own beliefs and thoughts, rather than the characters in his movies ... they are simply the tools he uses.

Less than two years ago, I was struggling to put thoughts into words after watching Malick's The Tree of Life. Now, in record time for him, he releases another film that is even more impressionistic ... actually abstract is not too strong a description. The usual Malick elements are present - nature, uncomfortable relationships, minimal dialogue, breathtaking photography, and powerful music. Where The Tree of Life focused on Creation and Family, this latest takes on Love and Faith.

Water imagery is a frequent key as we see the personal relationship mimic the changing of the seasons. Neil (Ben Affleck), an American visiting Paris, meets and falls for Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a free-spirited local filled with light and energy. Their love affair moves to the stunning Mont Saint-Michel before settling in the drab plains of Bartlesville, Oklahoma.

It's not surprising that the relationship suffers as the newness wears thin. The interesting part is how Malick presents it. We mostly witness bits and pieces ... he shows us moments, not events. We easily see that Neil's aloofness and sullen looks don't jibe with Marina's effervescence. When she returns to Paris, Neil easily falls in with an old flame played by Rachel McAdams. When she later accuses him of making what they had "nothing", we all understand what she means ... and why.

While Neil is proving what a lost soul he is, we also meet Father Quintana (Javier Bardem). He has lost the light of his faith and is in full crisis mode, even as he attempts to console and guide Marina. There is no secret that much of this film is autobiographical and that Malick is working through wounds he still carries these many years later. As a movie-goer, there is little to be gained from Alleck's disconnected character or from Kurylenko dancing in the rain. The real prize is awakening the thoughts and feelings many of us probably buried over the years to hide emotional pain. Malick seems to be saying that it's OK to acknowledge your foundation, regardless of your ability to succeed in a socially acceptable manner.

If you prefer not to dig so deep emotionally, this is a beautiful film to look at - thanks to Director of Photograpy Emmanuel Lubezki (a frequent Malick collaborator), and listen to - a blended soundtrack with many notable pieces from various composers. While this will be remembered as Roger Ebert's final movie review (he liked it very much), it will likely have very little appeal to the average movie watcher - and I'm confident that Terrence Malick is fine with that.
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Too much beauty, zero content
tankhimo15 August 2013
This movie tries so hard to be beautiful, it hurts. I got a beauty overdose after 20 minutes. The cinematography is so gorgeous, it should be used to teach photography students, especially ultra-wide lens work. There is a lot of beautiful acting by insanely beautiful Olga Kurylenko and then some by beautiful Rachel McAdams, whose character is absolutely unnecessary, by the way. Not much more in terms of acting, though. Even the great Javier Bardem was acting Ben Affleck style - making serious faces and trying not to look stupid. Both extremely beautiful, of course. The score was quite beautiful, too. Other than all that beauty, there was nothing. No plot, no dialogues. Scattered pseudo-spiritual monologues in five languages did not help much, and reading meaningless subtitles distracted me from watching the aforementioned beauty. Bottom line: way too much beauty and zero content. Recommended to aspiring photographers and very patient Olga Kurylenko fans.
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To the Wonder, what for?!?!
edgaraz2 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
To the Wonder why he made this picture? I am not one of those film geeks that get off on hating, I would rather, and I really went into this picture wanting to like it, but that just wasn't the case. First and foremost I do really like the symbolism in the camera work and how each shot sets the viewer up for what's going to happen, tight! At the same time all of the hand held camera work lends a sense of a misconstrued narrative that has been made so popular by all of the fake reality TV shows. Nothing wrong with hand held camera work, just ask Jack Torrence!! Exactly!! All of that camera work in the Shining provides a narrative point of view and meaning, To the Wonder implies some on ground omniscient point of view when coupled with the story just washes out to a tag line that should read, "dude, don't marry crazy chicks and when you love someone that you have everything in common with and don't dump her because of nostalgia or the good ol' times." Pretty common sense, granted, I'm sure that we've all stepped in the same pile of crap more then once in life, but by the time we are in our late thirties or early forties, experience tends to make the right decisions for us. And the same can be said about this picture in every way.
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Bring your "hearing aids" and caffeine
rpduffy86116 June 2013
I kept passing by this movie "On Demand" and finally gave it my $6.99 (sigh). I should have listened to my gut. I am not a film critic. I am a film lover and I enjoy all genres of films. I do not like to write reviews but I could not pass by without saying something about this dreadful movie. I liked Tree of Life. That movie is not this movie and comes nowhere near it. Tree of Life made me "think" and I watched it twice in one weekend. To the Wonder had me turning it off at 1:25 but wanting to turn it off after 20 minutes. Ben doesn't say more than a few lines and get your hearing aids out because you can barely hear him. Same goes for the other characters in this movie, they whispher. As if the viewer isn't already trying to piece some kind of story together the director goes further and makes what little lines there are in this worthless piece of celluloid uninteresting and completely void of detail! Oh and don't think I'm not into art, imagery, impression etc, Oh I am, but this didn't cut it, they should have left it all on the cutting floor. If you are going to make this special type of film you best do it quite well or don't bother. I didn't care about anybody in this film. Two beautiful women twirling in fields, in curtains, in their hair....nauseating!!! You see Ben's head or half his body and him touching the ladies on their back or pulling his hand away. You see empty stairwells, empty rooms (good lord buy some furniture already). You see a little girl running through a supermarket and her line, "it's so clean"....REALLY, wow? This movie was horrendous. I honestly can't believe somebody made money off this junk. You can't make out what they say and when they do say something it's boring. This movie is truly awful and damn near put me into a coma. I can handle bad movies (Mommy Dearest was bad, so bad I loved it) and I don't ever turn a movie off that I paid 6.99 to view at home. That should tell you something. PASS THIS ONE!
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To The Wonder is wonderful
moores-294-4997792 September 2012
Terrence malick, director behind last years most discussed picture, 'The Tree of Life', has snuck his new film 'to the wonder' into the venice film festival. I came here to see The Master, but was also interested in Malicks new film. i was hesitant to get excited for it though. Malick is widely regarded as a control freak as a director, meditating for years, and releasing his films incredibly infrequently. i felt that it was way too early between drinks for malick to release another work. after such a personal film like TTOF, i thought this might be more of a minor work, like how the Coen brothers did No Country and followed up with the minimalistic screw-ball comedy 'burn after reading'. How unprepared and wrong i was.

To The Wonder is a magnificent film. The tree of life was a towering achievement IMHO, and this film doesn't fall short by much in terms of scope, ambition and achievement. by any standards its a great film. its a strong addition to malick's small yet vital body of work. The acting is very good, but like TTOF, takes a a bit of a back seat for malick to do his thing. Affleck and McAdams a very good, as are bardem and kurylenko. i don't want to give away to many plot specifics or character details. most of that is in the lengthy plot synopsis released online yesterday anyway. it is very dream-like, and has a lack of dialogue like TTOF. it tells most of its story through imagery, music and how characters physically act towards each other. i never liked affleck as an actor before this. he's good here, but i wouldn't have minded someone else in the role.

About what affleck said yesterday. that to the wonder makes TTOF look like transformers. that statement is so exaggerated and pretty much wrong. if anything, TTOF is still more experimental than TO THE WONDER. that doesn't detract from the huge ambition of this film though. I'm so excited to see malick working quicker now. it really is a dream to have malick films in 3 successive years. next year is knight of cups. couldn't be more excited. like TTOF, this film will richly reward repeat viewing, but is a little more accessible than TTOF. people who had problems with the whole universe and dinosaurs thing in TTOF wont have to worry here. although ambitious, it is a little more grounded, and will be more palatable to a bigger audience. thats not to say that the mainstream will embrace this film, because they wont. its a malick film through and through, and i couldn't be more grateful for that.

Before i saw this, the race for my favourite film of the year had really boiled down to THE MASTER (which was great, but still processing) and BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Malick's film has opened up the field. 5/5
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If you know Malick, you know what you're getting.
The_Film_Cricket15 April 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If you know Terrence Malick's work, then you pretty much know what you're walking into when you attend his movies. His films don't look, walk, talk or even sing like anyone else's. He is a cinema artist whose work is quiet, poetic and breaks away from the standard narrative, cutting down just enough plot and dialogue so they don't seem intrusive. With this stylistic approach, he is at work in a sea of mostly cookie-cutters. Other directors tread safe waters of action and romance while Malick is satisfied to let our expectations wade just a bit. We become lost in his tapestry of images. If you're willing to give yourself to his lyrical canvas, you find his work engrossing. If not, you'll find it frustrating and boring. It is strictly up to you.

"To the Wonder," his latest film, is an engaging cinematic poem that explores the mysterious chasms of the human heart. Wherein his last film "The Tree of Life" contrasted the evolution of the universe with his memories of growing up in Texas, this one tries to encompass the evolution of a relationship from courting, to settling in, to marriage, and eventually to its breakdown; all told with stunning images and a winsome soundtrack. What dialogue exists is heard in passing. We hear only what we need to hear, the visual canvas tells the story.

There isn't a lot that we need to be told in "To the Wonder" because, having experienced the rise and fall of relationships in our own lives, we recognize the situation. We meet Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko), lovers who are spending time in Paris. He's an Oklahoman; she's a single mother from the Ukraine. We catch up with them after they have already fallen deeply in love in Paris at the pre-historic island of Mont Saint-Michel. Neil brings Marina home with him to Oklahoma, to an area where he works, overseeing the construction of a Southwestern suburb - moving from an ancient European preserve to the modern Middle-American world of rapid reconstruction (she is a stranger in a strange land). The sparseness of the dialogue symbolizes the lack of communication between them.

They settle into a life together, but then real life comes calling. They can't marry by sacrament of the Catholic church (she has an issue concerning a former marriage), among other normal everyday problems that occur in a relationship. What happens in their union is not surprising given what we know of them. They argue, they make mistakes, they reunite, they break-up, they make-up. They love each other from the depth of their being and their reaction to one another startles us. There is a moment when he becomes angry with her leaving her stranded by the side of the road, but what he does next is surprising. You don't see it in other films.

What is surprising is the way in which their story is told. Malick breaks away from the phony, Hallmark version of romance that is obtrusive in most Hollywood romances by telling us just enough about these people to allow us to care deeply about them. Ben Affleck, who has reinvented himself as a director and a much more focused actor, uses his screen-presence to great effect. He is the masculine part of this equation. Olga Kurylenko (seen this month in the Tom Cruise adventure "Oblivion") is an extraordinarily beautiful Ukranian actress, possessing a face and an essence that Vermeer might have captured on canvas. We're less familiar with her than we are with Affleck, and that make her much more of a mystery to us.

Their story is compelling, but it is only part of a larger canvas. Another story happening around them focuses on a Spanish priest Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), who has come to Oklahoma, making him another stranger in a strange land. His eyes tell us everything that we need to know. He is a servant of God, devoted to his work but whose heart is feeling the pangs of emptiness. All around him are people in joy and pain. He officiates a wedding, later he visits inmates at a prison. He visits the sick and the elderly, but there is doubt in his eyes. He wonders about his placement in God's service, has he given himself to the cloth at the expense of a joyful life? There is also the suspicion that he is feeling confined by his vows. He can officiate, and comfort but as a priest he is unable to have a life of his own. He sees lovers getting married but he knows that he can never experience this. Bardem, in his best work, is an actor who can speak volumes without speaking a word. It's all there in his face. In mainstream films, he plays villains as in "Skyfall" or his Oscar-winning performance in "No Country for Old Men", but this role proves that he can also be quietly and powerfully introspective.

Malick's films are not for everyone. There has been a mixed reaction to this film from critics who charge that he has made a film of empty images. You might agree or disagree depending on your point of view. This is not a popcorn movie by any stretch of the imagination. It is a work of art, a symphony of images with very few words. It is one of those movies that, on the surface seems baffling and incomprehensible, but the deeper we look the more it reveals.

**** (of four)
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Not an accessible film
Gordon-1118 May 2013
This film is about a man's turbulent relationship with a French woman, complicated by a childhood sweetheart he re-acquaints.

"To The Wonder" is a slow moving film with somewhat a plot, but not one that I understand. It tells how Neil meets Marina in France, then they move to the States. Marina is unhappy there and moves back to France. Somehow Marina moves back to the States to rekindle the relationship. That's what I got from the film, but the scenes are too random to really understand what is happening. There is a scene of Marina attempting overdose, then the next scene shows Marina kissing Neil's feet. Now just what exactly is happening? Even Rachel McAdams, the queen of romantic films, could not save this randomness. Her saccharine persona is truncated by scenes of crop fields and animals grazing. Actually, those romantic scenes of them frolicking in the fields concentrates more on the crops and animals.

"To The Wonder" is surely more accessible than "The Tree of Life", but it is still not so accessible to the general public.
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zanzara1915 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
If it were possible to give zero stars, I'd give this film 0 stars. I saw it in September 2012 in Venice, and I actually looked forward to seeing it! I love the film festival and there's always a lot of stuff worth watching. This was the first film I saw and it kind of set the stage for all the others, which is the probable reason why I didn't enjoy the festival as much as I could (and should) have. I could barely endure sitting in the cinema for the whole movie! Maybe I didn't get it, but a couple of disconnected sentences with recurring pictures of a woman running in circles in a field isn't my idea of a good movie. It's a pity that a potential good cast was thrown away like this. This film is a complete waste of time and money.
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Good for mental health professionals
healthguardian20 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This movie is very depressing. If you work in woman's health, psychotherapy, social work, or woman's counseling this movie is a must. Typical example of an undiagnosed untreated bi-polar manic depressive. Because of her illness this woman ruins two marriages, countless other relationships, and poisons her connection with her daughter.

She tries the typical action by running away to United States after finding a willing male victim to take her there, but her depression follows her and soon involves the boyfriend. She goes back to France when her visa expires because he won't marry her but then, in a veiled threat, entices him to take her back. A move that was doomed to failure because her depression follows her.

She also fails the mother-daughter relationship. Fortunately, the daughter is mature enough to sense the dysfunction and is able to escape back to the father where she enjoys a normal family environment.

Great cinematography only emphasizes the depression. The film director really gives good expression and texture to the overall emotional aspect of the moods and psychological expression of the actors. Overall, the visual effect is more stirring that the script.

Good educational value as expression of bi-polar manic depressive. Very poor entertainment value.
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It's a wonder I wasted 2 hours of my life on this movie
kelly-j-stocker12 April 2013
The movie is disjointed, bizarre, wooden, non-sensical. Apparently all you have to do to capture Ben Affleck's attention is run around weirdly, frolic in meadows, roll around the ground, drape your face in material. And then its love, sweet love!

Since you literally have no idea what's happening for the majority of the film, you are just "treated" to both female protagonists being odd and staring off into the distance. There are few words in this movie -- mostly from this really strange interaction between the french gal and her friend who is screaming in the neighborhood and from random crackheads talking to the priest.

This may be the worst movie I've ever seen... but it is absolutely the most boring movie I've ever seen.
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A series of images adding up to one relationship, and you get to add the meaning
napierslogs29 April 2013
Following up the dramatic success of "The Tree of Life" (2011), Terrence Malick has gone simpler but more abstract with "To the Wonder". Following only one relationship, we see Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) fall in love, grow apart, fight to stay together, and fight to stay apart. It's about the resolution, or lack of resolution, of one ill-fated romantic relationship.

The key is that we see them in these various stages. This is an entirely visual film with nothing else. No dialogue. There are a few random lines of narration and even fewer lines that one character may speak to another character, but following the strict definition of dialogue – a conversation between two or more people – there is no dialogue. There also isn't any characters. That's not really true, but we don't learn their names (I only got them from a plot summary), we don't learn anything about their past, and we also don't see them in between the turning points in their relationship.

The turning points in their relationship is likely a major factor in determining if you'll like the film. We apparently jump back and forth in time with flashbacks and flash-forwards but there is no distinction between the scenes, so you're just left to guess at what point of time they're in. But for lovers of subtle works of art, it also means that you get to figure out on your own what causes the relationship to crash and burn or rise above the flames.

At first I was offended by the depiction of the failing of their relationship. I thought Terrence Malick was the opposite of a misogynist and was representing women as ultimate perfection and completely innocent no matter how deplorable their actions. But then I realized that he wasn't saying anything at all. He was just presenting us with images and we get to add the meaning and words. Like a Mad-Lib, but not very funny.

Take one relationship, add in some beautiful scenery – both European and stateside, add in some Christian undertones, add in children, jobs and visas to create some important societal structure within the relationship, and then remove all conversations and orientation of time and you've got "To the Wonder". You can get out of it almost everything that you put into it – there's always something lost in the translation.
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A Rhythmic Design of Life Around Sustaining Love and Faith
buzzingmovie23 December 2012
Terence Malick surprises everyone with a new release of romantic drama within two years from his previous film Tree of Life, an epitome of Malick's cosmic fixations, whereas this film can be called as a younger sibling to it. 'To the Wonder' is a courageous movie presenting beautiful images as Terence's film always does, with subject matter concerned with love and God and consequences of absence of either. Malick's visual majestic language involves the prudent style of whispered narrative, an overwhelming orchestral score and circling camera-work along with silent outdoor memory sequences across sunsets evoking the hidden emotions of the characters.

We also see memories from two intense but ultimately inharmonious relationships which take the voice-over techniques, with some of the aspects of the story involving a foreign wife and an encounter with a previously known woman are said to be autobiographical for Malick. The majestic nature shots are signposts for his spiritual obsessions with most dramatic image of the movie captures Neil and his former girlfriend in the middle of a bright green field surrounded by buffalo, a prominent portrait of the American dream that cohesively connects to the context of the narrative.

Olga Kurylenko portrays great skills in playing Marina, has a dominating presence with Ben Affleck and Rachael Mcadams giving a convincing performance.The movie is visually ravishing and there is a spellbinding quality to the cutting style, creating a unique ambiance to every frame. Marina's life is in a constant state of change but the film encompasses its holy beauty in the hidden rhythmic structure which resembles the ever-changing seasons, diverse emotions and conflict within relationships due to difficulty in sustaining love and faith.

For complete review which may contain some spoilers(no major plot details) visit our website..!!
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More of an art installation than a film with some faux-documentary mixed in
ravechildglasgow4 March 2013
To The Wonder is a visually and aurally stunning experience but this outweighs narrative and emotional engagement, leaving it a bit cold where it tries to be all-encompassing warm.

More of an art installation than a film (if it was cut down to half an hour it would be perfect) with some faux-documentary mixed in.

It's difficult to really say how people are acting in this film, because the lack of action or dialogue delivered in the piece is enough to really judge how it's performers are "acting".

No conversations or shot lasts any longer then they need to, so we pick up just enough to know what's happening, but it's also emotionally alienating because the viewer can never connect to these characters.

Ben Affleck looks barely there; not apparently able to share in Malick's vision of the emotionally sterile lead actor, instead just doing nothing and looking like he's wondered into the wrong film set.

Whereas Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams both return strong performances as alternate choices and women, you can't help but feel frustrated as Affleck, the camera, audience sit and watch them try their best efforts to be human and lovers with hopes and dreams which this film (through Affleck) largely diffuses.

Javier Bardem however is perhaps more interesting, seemingly...
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Lots of twirling
lmiller414 August 2013
If you enjoy seeing a lot of twirling, this is a movie you don't want to miss. The two female leads twirl wherever they are, grocery shopping, walking anywhere, not just on the beach but in grocery stores on casual strolls; and they never get dizzy. These women are every man's dream, Rachael McAdams wears makeup: lipstick, mascara, eyeliner-the whole nine yards, while she's bailing hay. It's amazing. To add to the enjoyment, there's no real plot. At least one you haven't seen before, albeit without the twirling. Olga Kurylenkoand and Ben Afflack never age because, I guess, they walk on the beach a lot while twirling. But eventually, all that twirling gets to them and he gets bored with her and then she gets bored with him and a priest gets bored with god and finally, the viewer gets dizzy watching.
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Worst Film Ever?
It may not be the worst film ever, but I would certainly place it on the shortlist. I love an arty film as much as the next man, but this was ridiculous. The complete lack of storyline made this a complete waste of nearly two hours of my life! I could have cleaned my toilets in that time and felt more uplifted. It doesn't start out too bad and the promise of some event or occurrence is what kept me watching, unfortunately it never arrives and what transpires is that this film is a snapshot of some random peoples thoughts about love and life. If it wasn't for Olga Kurylenko's lovable character I would have scored the film 1/10. Ben Affleck could be absolutely anyone in this film, he is ill cast and appears as a bumbling mute giant devoid of any thought or character. The cinematography is at times wonderful and I get the link to God and creation, but the insertion of a priest (Javier Bardem!!!) into the mixing pot of jumbled thoughts that is the script, is a blatant and insulting attempt to get the viewer to draw some ethereal conclusion and leaving them doesn't.
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Red_Identity13 April 2013
Malick is one of my favorite directors ever. He's made three masterpieces, one excellent film, and one merely solid one. The Tree of Life is his finest achievement, one of my five favorite films ever. Now here comes To The Wonder and it's like Tree of Life's very similar, but much more emotionally-undeveloped younger cousin that wants to be as mature and as serious as it's older relative. That's the problem, but it's also part of its appeal. I did not have high expectations for this, but I also didn't really think it would hit greatness. I was sort of right. By this point it's safe to say that you're either fond of Malick's general style or not. Obviously I am and so there's nothing here that's challenging for me as a viewer because I know what to expect. But even with his former weakest, The New World, there was still something unique to each of his five films. This is To The Wonder's biggest problem. The cinematography is beautiful and would blow your mind away if this was your first Malick film, but as it is, it's kinda predictable. The story at the core is also never fully brought to life in the way the story in his last one was, although Kurylenko and McAdams both bring some truly ethereal presence.

It sounds like I didn't even like it. I did, but I also think it started off pretty great and kinda lost itself and got weaker as it went on. And while there's still a lot to admire, I'm not surprised by the criticisms and it's finally the film where the term "Malick cliché" can be applied to.
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