DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

TO THE WONDER (director/writer: Terrence Malick; cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki; editors: A. J. Edwards/Keith Fraase/Shane Hazen/Christopher Roldan/Mark Yoshikawa; music:  Hanan Townshend; cast: Ben Affleck (Neil), Olga Kurylenko (Marina), Rachel McAdams (Jane), Javier Bardem (Father Quintana), Romina Mondello (Anna), Tatiana  Chiline (Tatiana); Runtime: 112; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Glen Basner/ Jason Krigsfeld/Joseph Krigsfeld; Magnolia; 2012-in English/French/Spanish/Italian, with English subtitles when needed)

" I think there's something sufficient to love about such a bold film."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A beautifully composed exercise in experimental filmmaking that plays out as a homage to the wonders of nature. It's written and directed by Terrence Malick ("The Thin Red Line"/"The Tree of Life"/"Badlands"). THW coasts along without much narrative and purpose, but it does strike a few lyrical poses about love that are moving and the lushly photographed landscape by Emmanuel Lubezki is fit for a canvas showing at MOMA.

It features throughout the gentle Neil (Ben Affleck) and the radiant Marina (Olga Kurylenko) as lovers, supposedly a sure match, who do such eloquent things as open the pic by professing their love for each other while walking the Normandy beach near the monastery of Mont St. Michel while in the background we're treated to strands of Wagner and Haydn. We learn that environmental inspector Neil is a Sooner and Marina's a Ukrainian divorcee living in Paris with her 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline), and that the American met the European while vacationing. After some hesitancy, the girls move into Neil's Oklahoma residence, where Marina marries Neil and accepts the soft American life style for what it is but soon suffers from culture shock and for spiritual comfort befriends fellow exile, the local Spanish born Catholic priest, Father Quintana (Javier  Bardem), hoping to get his religious take on things. The priest is shown doing his daily chores, such as visiting prisons and conducting church services, and expresses concern that he's losing faith in his mission in life. Meanwhile lost soul Marina frets about adjusting to a foreign country and her new lover's betrayal, and the homesick exile returns with her daughter to Paris. Neil has experienced some job difficulties to compound his marital woes, but bounces back as he reconnects with former lover Jane (Rachel McAdams). What follows at length is an overblown, sometimes intriguing, sometimes annoying, but always tender-hearted study of romance and its ordinary intricacies. I reviewed the pic after one sitting, but it's a film that I believe demands more sittings if you want to take it seriously, as I believe you should, as a work of art by a great filmmaker.

Whatever faults may or may not manifest, I still applaud it for being unique, refreshing, risky and for pulling off its almost too ridiculous (even for Hollywood) many rapturous moments. It's not a pic for everyone, but for those who stay the course I think there's something sufficient to love about such a bold film and its wacky erotic depiction of  "paradise lost."

REVIEWED ON 11/5/2013       GRADE: B+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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