Terrence Malik is one of the most celebrated and maybe one of the most debated directors in film history. His films are filled with poetic images that haunt viewers well past the end credit roll, and are often light on dialogue and heavy on mood, atmosphere and suggestiveness. I have only found myself divided on a few of Malik’s films, I could never get into The Thin Red Line or The New World much, but I loved Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Tree of Life. After sometimes leaving decades in between projects, Malik seems to have found a second wind and is following up The Tree of Life with a new film only a year later, To the Wonder.
Neil (Ben Affleck) is a writer who falls in love with a Ukrainian woman, Marina (Olga Kurylenko) while travelling Europe. He invites Marina and her 10 year old daughter to come and live with him in Oklahoma, where he is taking a new job in the environmental industry. But in America, the fairy tale starts to unravel as Neil and Marina find themselves drifting apart and into the arms of others.
On the visual side of things, Malik is as skilled as ever. The film is strikingly beautiful to look at. But where The Tree of Life had a strong heart in the story of the family depicted, To the Wonder has a very weak story of this couple that you don’t really care for right from the beginning. Malik does 90% of the dialogue in the movie through narration, with the characters actually saying very little on screen, leaving them to convey their emotions through expressions that seem so unnatural and distracting, I felt like I was watching a 100 minute perfume commercial. It is almost as if Malik has been carried away with his own hype and made a film that is all style and no substance. Nothing in the story arc kept me interested at all and ultimately I was left extremely disappointed in a movie I was quite excited for. If you want to project gorgeous images on the wall of your next art gallery showing, To the Wonder is the film you need, but if you want to be engrossed in a story, best to look elsewhere.
The Blu-ray from VVS is stunningly beautiful. The colors are warm and wonderful, clarity and detail are astounding, and the soundtrack is lush, full and immersive. If only there was a good story to accompany this artful piece, it would have been lived up to its name.
Available August 6, 2013 on Blu-ray and DVD.