For many film lovers, an air of anticipation and elation usually fills our bodies when we learn of an impending new project from Todd Haynes. The acclaimed director of Carol, I’m Not There and Far From Heaven is one of modern cinema’s most captivating storytellers and, as you would expect, his latest film comes with much excitement despite its somewhat slow road to the screen since it debuted at Cannes last year. So, does this latest venture warrant such a wait?
Wonderstruck focuses its story on two seperate tales set fifty years apart: in the early 1920’s, young Rose (A Quiet Place‘s Millicent Simmonds) heads from her small town home to bustling New York City in search of her favourite silent move actress (Julianne Moore), desperate to meet her before “the talkies” stamp their authority on cinema. In the 1970’s, another youngster, Ben (Oakes Fegley) lives with his mother (Michelle Williams) but he doesn’t know anything about his father, so takes it upon himself to try to seek him out. Two lost souls two seemingly impossible quests but ones that will have answers neither expected.
While it may start in a slightly jarring way given the structure of the narrative, Wonderstruck soon settles into its rhythms and begins to unravel its mysteries. Haynes, always a master of imagery, thrives in the playground of the two time periods: the 20’s, shot in startling black and white, looks as glorious as it no doubt did back then and with the added sound design elements that make you feel like you’re in a silent movie, it’s hard to think of anyone who won’t be swept up in it. When the 70’s burst through the screen with its vibrancy: we are in the same place but it’s a different world completely, awash with colours that pierce through the story.
But for all the amazing images and settings on show here, it’s in the story that the film falls a little flat particularly when the two strands begin to merge together. That’s not to say it’s not compelling by any means, and with superb performances from Simmonds, Moore, Williams and Oakes Fegley backing it up it’s anything but dull, however, once the mysteries begin to announce themselves, the pay off is rather bland and frankly a huge disappointment.
A visual splendour that’s as captivating as it is startling, Wonderstruck has plenty to offer but with a narrative that becomes rather disjointed, it all feels more style than substance particularly in its latter stages. Still, with Haynes, at the top of his game as ever, there’s much to admire even if it doesn’t leave a lasting impression.
Scott J.Davis |
Family, Mystery | USA, 2017 |PG | 6th April 2018 (UK) | Studiocanal | Dir.Todd Haynes | Oakes Fegley, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Millicent Simmonds, Cory Michael Smith