Director: Sebastián Lelio
Writer: Emma Donoghue, Alice Birch, and Sebastián Lelio
Starring: Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Elaine Cassidy, Caolán Byrne, Niamh Algar, Toby Jones
The Wonder is directed by Sebastián Lelio and is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Emma Donoghue. It stars Florence Pugh as Lib Wright, a nurse who is sent from England to a small village in Ireland to watch a young girl, Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy), who apparently hasn’t eaten anything since she turned eleven, four months prior. Lib is sceptical, thinking that she must be sneaking food somehow, and takes her position seriously to disprove the girl’s claim.
The film starts with the fourth wall completely broken, the camera watching a set in a studio as a voice over (Niamh Algar) introducing you to the story and the characters, and the stories they believe in. The camera then pans over and fixes onto the actual set and zooms in on Pugh until the fourth wall is firmly back in place. There are a few other moments where the film breaks its reality, but this is still a full on period drama. You could very easily skip the opening and just watch the rest of the film and not really miss a thing. It’s just a way that the film is say it isn’t trying to lie to you and make you believe the events are real.
This is a story, and not reality. The opening is a good introduction to the theme of stories that is so prevalent throughout the film. It’s also a substitute for the ‘once upon a time’ that so many stories begin with. Stories is what the film is really about, and what they mean to us. There’s an exploration of the blind faith in religion as everyone seems to think that Anna surviving without food is some kind of miracle. It’s a question about whether religion is real or not, but it’s also about stories in general. The coping mechanisms that people use in life. It’s also a question morality question. Lib believes that Anna is starving herself and wants to prove that, to save her life, but at what point is she no longer a ‘watcher’.
Florence Pugh is absolutely brilliant in this film, giving her all in yet another phenomenal performance. The rest of the cast is also great, especially Kíla Lord Cassidy, but it’s Pugh who steals the film. It’s also got to be said that the visuals are stunning, from the rough nature of Ireland, and muted colours, to the sets and costumes, it’s all well produced and make the film completely gripping and authentic.
The Wonder is a sombre reflection not just on religion, but stories in general. The things we look to help life make sense. It is definitely not going to be for everyone, but with a phenomenal performance from Florence Pugh, it’s definitely worth giving a go.
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