To The Wonder is Terrence Malick’s latest film and it’s been released in the shortest period between films for him ever… a gap of one year! He notoriously didn’t make a film for literally 20 years between Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line. He has only made 6 films in his 40-year career of directing films (He wrote drafts of some films like Dirty Harry and Pocket Money) beginning with his masterpiece Badlands (a top ten film for me). He is considered by many to be one of the cinema’s greatest living talents and any new film by Malick is a real event.
Malick isn’t a director known for his great story telling ability. He makes great films but he is a mostly visually storyteller first and foremost, most of films have a very simple plot. To The Wonder is no exception and very possibly his simplest. French woman meets American man in Paris, they move to Oklahoma, it doesn’t quite work out, she moves back, he meets somebody else and it doesn’t work out, she decides to move back.
The film as is the case with all of Malick’s films to a extent is a deeply spiritual film. Malick own believes’ are truly unknown because he has been interviewed proper in almost 40s and is rarely photographed. The title To The Wonder has obvious spiritual connotations. The spirituality of a film is most obvious in its subplot of the film deals with a priest having a crisis of faith played by Javier Bardem.
The film has a very ambiguous ending not unlike his previous film The Tree of Life. Both films have been important in Malick’s career, both are much more overtly spiritual (they both deal with god, faith, nature as religion etc.), both are much more overly experimental than even stuff like The Thin Red Line or The New World. They have been critically very divisive even though The Tree of Life was more acclaimed on release. The films stars on both films have been even spoke of their reservations Sean Penn and Ben Affleck respectively.
However despite the very experimental nature of the film doesn’t mean its bad film, it’s a very good film. I’ve seen To The Wonder twice now, it’s clearly a meditation on love and faith and the loss of both. It’s beautifully photographed, which is always the case. The film’s biggest flaw is the subtitled narration throughout which can be really distracting from the stunning visuals but Malick is well known for using narration (it’s used heavily in every film of his). It’s a beautiful film even though it has some flaws.