The Wonder (2022/ Drama/ Netflix)
Based on – The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Director- Sebastian Lelio
Cast -Florence Pugh, Kila Lord Cassidy, Niamh Algar, Elaine Cassidy, Tom Burke
In rural Ireland in 18th century, an English nurse is hired to observe a young girl who claims to have not eaten for last four months but is apparently healthy and doing well.
The church and the deeply religious think she is God’s miracle.
A doctor scientist believes she is a science miracle.
The pragmatists believe she is famishing.
The Nurse has doubts that she is being fed secretly.
But the truth is convoluted and shattering.
The period setting, the intriguing premise and the cast is what drew me to this film. Performances and the setting had me spellbound but the twist for me came totally unaware and I was blown away by how subtly the narrative conveys what it intended to.
Sebastian Lelio effectively places religious fanaticism against scientific realism and also glaringly highlights the putrid patriarchy, the claustrophobic regressive scenario and how extreme religiousness effects human behaviour and mindset that leads them into believing their own warped alternate reality.
Lelio, whose films have always been critically acclaimed, says that the story might be unreal but what it represents is real even in the present context.
Interestingly, even though Emma Donoghue’s story is fictional but it is inspired from real social phenomenon reported during that period called ”Fasting Girls”. One famous case of a Welsh girl, Sarah Jacob is eerily similar.
But how the film uses the fasting girls’ story to convey something more hard hitting is what blows you away.
So many aspects of the film bring it to shine and lend it a stirring authenticity even though we know it’s a fictional story. The sets, art designs, costumes, lighting, get ups, the dark and grey frames and most importantly that haunting background score which lends a sinister feel as if warning of an impending darkness. A darkness that creeps upon you suddenly, it scares you and breaks your heart.
But beyond the darkness, there is a light, of reasoning, ethics,humanity, love and hope that Elizabeth represents.
I would suggest to avoid reading any reviews with spoilers, for the story to be impactful.
The realisation that makes it all the more impactful is that the concerns that are highlighted are still relevant across centuries, countries, cultures and religions.
Florence Pugh( Elizabeth) shines like a beacon. You would need to rewind and rewatch her scenes to absorb and relish the beauty and subtlety of her expressions.
Kila Lord Cassidy steals your heart with the innocence and naiveté that she lends little Anna.
The film is a gem and a must watch for those who like slow burn cinema with substance.
It has a superbly intriguing story if you tread unaware, boasts of captivating storytelling and what it highlights is heartbreaking.