‘The Wonder’ is a period drama mystery about a girl whose family claims she’s been living without no food for four months. But more than a mystery, it’s a tale about two strangers establishing a bond that could potentially change their lives forever, for the better or worse. If you are looking for a pacy thriller, this is probably not the title you’d want to stream on Netflix.
Directed by Sebastián Lelio, the 2022 movie is based on a book of the same name by Emma Donoghue. Florence Pugh plays British nurse Lib Wright, who is summoned to an Irish village and be part of an investigation to ascertain if a young girl could be a ‘saint’. The year is 1862, and 11-year-old Anna O’Donnell has become a local celebrity, drawing curios visitors to her village over the tale of her unbelievable 4-month-long hunger. The religious believe they have a miracle on their hands, but skeptics like Lib Wright are determined to uncover how the O’Donnell family is pulling off the impossible feat. Is it a miracle, a medical anomaly or a misguided attempt towards a strange cause?
I said this isn’t much of a mystery because the moment the writers show the first clue as to what’s happening, the answer becomes too obvious. However, there are certain surprising revelations made in the second half, which makes the slow start worth the wait. Pugh’ portrayal of Lib Wright is earnest, she is an exceptional character for the 1860s, an independent critical-thinker who trusts scientific facts, not faith and miracles. She is an experienced nurse who tended to dying solider at war and can hold her own against a room full of men ganging up against her.
Kila Lord Cassidy plays the mystery Anna in question, who claims to solely survive on ‘manna from heaven’. Cassidy is an interesting blend of creepy, vulnerable and sincere as a child who is blinded by religious beliefs. Lib and a nun are hired to keep a ‘watch’ over the girl 24*7, doing 8 hour shifts in rotation, to see if the child really is going on without food. Tom Burke is journalist Will Byrne who wants to do a story on Anna and rubs off on the wrong side of Lib when they first meet.
Since the plot takes place in small Irish village which seems to be pretty isolated, the cinematography is plain, stark and representative of the frugal conditions under which the characters live. The small community also becomes a metaphor for their closed-conservative-narrow view of life. For a film that gloomy and dark in tone for most of the runtime, ‘The Wonder’ has a triumphant climax, one that far more optimistic in tone than the skeptical nature of the plot.
It’s a 7/10 from me.
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