Directed by Sebastian Lelio
With Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kila Lord Cassidy, Niamh Algar, Elaine Cassidy, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Dermot Crowley, David Wilmot, Josie Walker and Brían F. O’Byrne.
The story of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a psychological thriller and a love story against evil.
Canadian-Irish novelist Emma Donoghue’s adaptation of her 2010 novel Bedroom was a smash hit in 2016, earning Brie Larson the Best Actress Oscar, and now the latest of Donoghue’s novels to hit the big screen is her 2016 novel wonderment with Florence Pugh in the lead role. The film shows nurse Elizabeth Wright (Pugh) traveling from England to rugged rural Ireland in the 19th century. She is tasked with observing an eleven-year-old girl who claims not to have eaten in four months, taking turns with a nun to make observations and comments to a committee.
The film is largely as bizarre as its subject matter suggests, drawing inspiration from the fasting maidens of the Victorian era. The film is directed by A fantastic woman Sebastián Lelio, having won an Oscar for his first film. It’s a tense, haunting film with a real gothic sensibility, making the most of its ominous landscape, depicting the back and forth between religion and science, at a time when religion was still widely prevalent in Ireland.
The Irish landscape really excels at capturing both a beautiful yet almost haunting quality, and the same description can perhaps be used to describe Kíla Lord Cassidy’s Anna O’Donnell. Ari Wegner, whose work on The power of the dog was so remarkable, here is one of the most exquisite movies of the year, perfectly complementing the mood. Matthew Herbert’s score has an almost ethereal quality and a haunting, piercing beauty, marking Ms. Wright’s change of mood as she begins to feel that she is the only one seeing the meaning.
Pugh, as we’ve grown accustomed to lately, is a true marvel, capturing the requisite stoicism and a sense of sadness beneath the surface and a determination to do what she thinks is right. The supporting cast is also no shortage of stars with Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Niamh Algar and Dermot Crowley all doing fine tricks with largely small roles. Outside of the two lead roles, the most prominent supporting role is Tom Burke’s William Byrne, a journalist interested in the story of the young girl who forges a close bond with Wright, the pair showing fine chemistry and Burke not making only bolstering his strong arthouse credentials lately.
Wonders The slow, luxurious pace may not be for everyone, but the slow story and true situation are cleverly handled with Donoghue adapting his own novel starring Alice Birch and Leilo. The tension mounts considerably towards the film’s denouement, which makes for gripping viewing and it’s unclear exactly how the girl survived until late in the film’s runtime. For the most part, the exquisite and haunting atmosphere does a remarkable job of building a murky and mysterious world that is both welcoming and inhospitable, much like the local Irish community seemingly towards Lizzie.
wonderment is a beautiful sequel to Oscar-winning Sebastián Lelio, cementing him as a director with a clear vision and immense reach. As Florence Pugh’s vessel, she commands the screen at every turn with a more reserved performance than those at the end showing her breadth again and it’s refreshing to see her continue to mix blockbusters with films of this genre. The exquisite production design, cinematography and score make wonderment a haunting and alluring proposition whose slow, slow build is certainly worth the ultimate price.
Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie ★★★★ / Movie ★★★★