"To the Wonder"
Release Date: April 12, 2013
Running Time: 113 minutes
Words are very unnecessary between the seemingly ill-suited lovers at the heart of director Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder. There is, though, very little silence to enjoy as married couple Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko suffer through many emotional highs and lows. Malick views the exchanges between Affleck and Kurylenko as nothing more than background noise, preferring instead to let Kurylenko express her inner thoughts on the state of her troubled relationship through her narration. Malick barely allows Affleck to utter a sentence that can be heard clearly and loudly, which seems appropriate given that Affleck’s playing a closed-off man who rarely allows anyone to know what’s going on in his head and his heart. By virtue of this, our sympathies naturally lie with Kurylenko as she drifts through To the Wonder questioning the true nature of love and yearning for a romance that’s impossible to enjoy. Kurylenko bares her soul in To the Wonder in the same affecting manner that Jessica Chastain did in Malick’s The Tree of Life. To mute Affleck, though, denies To the Wonder of a much-needed alternate voice. Are we to infer from Affleck’s inactions that he holds a pragmatic view of love? We are left with very little insight into Affleck, even after he enters into an affair with Rachel McAdams when he separates briefly from Kurylenko. There’s nothing Affleck can do. He’s required to maintain a stony face for most of To the Wonder. Even when Malick permits Affleck to smile, you know his happiness will last for a fleeting moment. As is typical of Malick’s beautifully shot impressionistic mediations on life, love and spirituality, To the Wonder occasionally shifts perspectives, from Kurylenko to the family priest who is played by Javier Bardem. There’s no reason for this change in voice. Bardem is shoehorned into the proceedings merely to articulate the desire that many people possess—perhaps Malick among them—that God reveals his presence in their daily lives. To this end, Malick’s trademark lingering shots of running water and tall grass swaying in the wind suggests that God is all around us, but that this is not enough, not even for a man of faith. There’s also an eco-themed subplot in To the Wonder that seemingly attempts to connect man’s relationship to the world many believe God created, but Malick never develops this past the point of Affleck’s taking water and soil samples. How this relates to Affleck’s inability to love Kurylenko the way she wants to be loved remains something of an enigma. Then again, Malick’s not a director who wants to be concrete. He wants us to find in his films what we find in them. Sadly, as we float in and out of the sorry lives of Affleck and Kurylenko, the boldest statement Malick dares to make intentionally or otherwise is that it takes two people to make a marriage work.
Aired: April 11, 2013
Web site: http://www.magpictures.com/tothewonder/