All London Film Festival 2022 reviews will be written by the wonderfully talented and massive film fan Brigitte Krause. You can follow her on Twitter – @TheBrigitteEdit.
‘The Wonder’ draws you in, asks for your attention and captivates you from the very beginning.
Florence Pugh is certainly giving other actors a run for their money these days with stellar performances in both her leading role in ‘Don’t Worry Darling’ and the Irish Gothic Tale ‘The Wonder’. After the DWD press drama, it’s likely a lot of people will have overlooked this second film, which in my eyes, is a disappointing thought as it should be acknowledged equally as yet another one of Pugh’s masterclasses in acting.
The film is set in The Irish Midlands in 1862 and follows an English nurse (Pugh) that is being asked to observe a young girl of 8 (Cassidy) that claims to have stopped eating months before, for no other reason than being a miracle, so her family claims.
As the English nurse arrives in rural Ireland, the family of ‘The Wonder’ girl also requests a nun to switch shifts with her. Not only because of the hours involved in observing the girl, but maybe more so because of the Irish Midlands at this time. The family heavily relies on their faith and deeply questions science, so to believe an English nurse, a female one at that, would be unthinkable.
We see this play out in various ways throughout the film, where Pugh’s character is being questioned so much that she starts questioning herself.
As the story progresses, the strong young girl becomes weaker and weaker. Despite claiming she hasn’t touched food for months prior to the English nurse’s presence, she has now become weak and frail. This is no surprise to the nurse, who believes the young girl will die of starvation, should she not eat immediately.
What follows is an unravelling of multiple beliefs and actions. The family, adamant about their beliefs, refuses to force the child to eat. The young girl continues to believe god and the English nurse are feeding her and is desperately trying to make herself heard. Without spoiling the outcome, it leads you to question, how much are you willing to let your loved ones suffer and be in pain to uphold your belief system and completely disregard facts.
Florence Pugh delivers a compelling performance, that is easily one of her career best, but then again, aren’t all her performances her best at this stage?
Cassidy mirrors her strength throughout the film, with so much conviction in her eyes, it’s only closely matched by Tom Burke’s charm. He is in the movie for what feels like a mere nine minutes and has already bewitched you.
‘The Wonder’ is a true testament to Lelio’s directing skills and vision. (He adapted the story based on “The Wonder’ by Emma Donoghue, together with her and Alice Birch (Lady Macbeth, Normal People). The opening scene, which begins at a warehouse, invites you to the film, and Niamh Algar’s voice-over invites you to immerse yourself in the story.
Something he must have had such a clear intention of, it so visible in his direction throughout the film, especially in its choice of score that competes with the vast landscapes and cinematography of Ari Wegner (cinematographer). Who is no newcomer to gothic period pieces, having worked on ‘The Power Of The Dog’ just previously, but also on ‘Lady Macbeth’, which shouldn’t be a surprise, as this blue dress looks all too familiar for fans of Pugh’s work.
I can’t help but wonder how intentional Lelio was on having the ‘Lady Macbeth’ team join forces on this with him, given Alice Birch, Ari Wegner and Florence Pugh all worked on it years prior.
If you couldn’t tell already by my above words, I enjoyed this film very much. It’s not the average gothic period drama, it distinguishes itself from them, with its captivating score. Its clear, stylish narrative and rewatchability has firmly placed ‘The Wonder’ as part of my Florence Pugh marathons down the line.
Directed By – Sebastian Lelio
Starring – Florence Pugh, Niamh Algar, Tom Burke, Kila Lord Cassidy,
Running Time – 1h 43 min