starring: florence pugh, kila lord cassidy, tom burke, and toby jones
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A tale of two strangers who transform each other's lives, a psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.
The Wonder, inspired by the 19th century phenomenon of the "fasting girls" and adapted from the acclaimed novel by Emma Donoghue (Room), is set in the Irish Midlands in 1862 where a young girl stops eating but remains miraculously alive and well.
English nurse Lib Wright is brought to a tiny village to observe eleven-year old Anna O'Donnell. Tourists and pilgrims mass to witness the girl who is said to have survived without food for months. Is the village harboring a saint 'surviving on manna from heaven' or are there more ominous motives at work?
From the very beginning The Wonder sows a seed of doubt into the mind of the viewer as the narrator utters, “The people you are about to meet, the characters, believe in their story with complete devotion.”
What follows is a slow burning physiological thriller, leading the audience to question every character's version of reality. All while being played out on the larger canvas of the struggle between faith and reason.
Whether it's a person of devout faith or one of scientific reason, in light of the phenomenon of Anna not eating for months, both sides have to take a leap of faith of sorts, all the while bending the facts and circumstances to fit their own particular explanation of what is truly going on. The Wonder is refreshing in that it doesn’t fall into the trap where it demeans or puts down the religious side, but presents both sides of the argument as having its merits but serious flaws.
The Wonder is aided by a soaring, soul piercing score by Matthew Herbert that along with Ari Wegner’s sparse yet beautifully framed cinematography, creates a haunting tale that really gets under your skin. The themes and questions it raises from the destructive power of religious extremism to eating disorders and neglect of children, The Wonder will have you thinking about it for days after you’ve seen it.
Having crafted a well deserved reputation for being a powerhouse performer, Pugh gives her most nuanced and restrained performance throughout The Wonder, masterfully excelling in the quieter moments. Kila Lord Cassidy is a standout as the young Anna while the rest of the cast including Tom Burke, Toby Jones, and Ciaran Hinds are all expectedly spectacular.
A slow burning thriller, The Wonder begins with a spark and ends in an inferno, led by a miraculous performance from Florence Pugh.