A gritty tale exploring religion vs science that is helmed by a masterful lead performance by Florence Pugh, The Wonder is definitely worth a watch and may nearly pack as much of a punch as the book.
WRITTEN BY BECCA JOHNSON / NOVEMBER 24, 2022
Based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donaghue, The Wonder takes it's audience to the mid 1800's Irish Midlands. Nurse Lib Wright's presence is requested to observe a young girl who is considered a miracle by some and a medical anomaly by others, as she has somehow survived for months without food.
Florence Pugh is a household name by now, so it won't come as a surprise that she carries this movie effortlessly. She always brings a layer of grace and understanding to her period drama characters, Nurse Lib being no exception. Although we are mostly exploring 11 year old Anna, The Wonder delves deep into Lib's character as she is forced to rethink everything she knows, and Pugh tackles this perfectly. Stepping into the role of Anna is Kila Lord Cassidy, who despite not having a huge amount of acting experience, puts in a believable turn. Tom Burke (The Souvenir) joins the cast as a journalist covering Anna's story, and although he doesn't give a career best performance, he has good enough chemistry with Pugh and adds a worthwhile layer to the story. Niamh Algar, after terrific performances recently in Censor and Calm With Horses, is an actress that many are enjoying and keeping an eye on. Unfortunately, The Wonder's script doesn't give her much time to shine, but she's great when she's on screen nonetheless.
What makes The Wonder so captivating from start to finish is its tone. It is atmospheric and eerie, often dipping its toes into thriller territory with its unsettling, mysterious nature. Despite it's sombre and dark themes, the movie still manages to look great, with cinematography that showcases the landscapes without looking too bleak and drab. It feels ominous and looming without having to make it's aesthetic match, which is when it's score becomes all the more powerful. One of the best of the year, composed by Matthew Herbert, it's incredibly creepy and ties everything together in an immersive bow. Director Sebastian Lelio's (Gloria Bell) direction is fantastic throughout, as every element ensures this is not only one of Netflix's weirdest and boldest originals, but a very memorable one.
The Wonder is a slow burn, that's undeniable – and enjoyment will differ from person to person, dependant on how much the story resonates. At face value, it's a mystery, which will leave you trying to figure out why young Anna is still alive, where she is getting her food from, or if divine intervention really is at play. However, those who are prepared to dig a little deeper may find more to sink their teeth into than just the central mystery. It explores feminism, religion vs science, faith and grief amongst plenty of other themes, and the more you uncover, the more unsettling the story becomes. It dares to delve into the role women play in society, and how much of that is controlled by the world around them. It also shows a side of religion that we don't often see, a damaging side.
Fantastic performances, an unsettling score, gorgeous visuals and a deep, dark plot make up the bulk of The Wonder, creating an equally fascinating and shocking watch. Sebastian Lelio proves himself as a director once again, as does Florence Pugh as an actress – it's worth the viewing just to see their talent on display. This one won't be for everyone due to it's slow moving plot and demanding themes. It also has a meta element at the beginning and end of the flick that are definitely intriguing, but feel a little out of place and underdeveloped. That being said, it does Donoghue's novel a massive justice, which is a rare compliment in this day and age. It's a horror movie without the horror, and is a very competent psychological thriller from Netflix.