The Wonder review

It’s unusual not to have Florence Pugh twirling in circles in a flower crown, honestly but sometimes you have to keep an open mind. I won’t give away my view of this psychological thriller in the first paragraph, but I will say that, if you’re looking for a film about sainthood and the concept of martyrdom, maybe watch Martyrs (the original) instead.

Based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue, The Wonder follows an English nurse, Elizabeth “Lib” Wright to a new post in rural Ireland, where she must keep an eye on a young girl on a hunger strike, who appears – miraculously – to be healthy and well.

THE WONDER (2022)

A tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller ∙ IMDB user rating: 6.7
My score: 2/5 ∙ Runtime: 108 mins

Director: Sebastián LelioStars: Niamh Algar, Florence Pugh, David Wilmot

*Spoilers*

In 1862 (my birthdate), Elizabeth “Lib” Wright (Pugh) is sent to a rural village in Ireland to watch over Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), a young girl who hasn’t consumed food for four months. Lib is to be assisted by a nun, Sister Michael (Josie Walker) on this very unusual mission – their roles being to independently observe Anna and report back to a council of unbearable old white men (including Toby Jones and Ciarán Hinds) on their findings.

I’m no religious expert here, but the men seem to be frothing at the gash about this being some sort of a modern-day saint type situation, with Anna on the verge of entering Jesus’ Hall of Fame any time… now?

Given the fact Lib is English and the trauma of the Great Famine is still fresh in everybody’s minds, it’s no surprise that she’s met with a general air of distrust. This may also explain the way she’s treated by the council board later on, even though she’s doing exactly what they ask of her… Until then, Lib meets Anna’s deeply religious family – ma, pa and elder sister Kitty.

There was a brother, Lib learns, but he died of an unknown illness. Meanwhile, Anna herself appears to be in decent health, given she hasn’t had a Big Mac in fucking months – and claims to have been kept alive by consuming “manna from Heaven”.

At her boarding house, Lib hooks up with a local man, journalist William (Tom Burke) who’s covering the story of Anna – and thinks all this fasting nonsense is a hoax. Initially unconvinced, Lib changes her mind when she notices the way the girl’s mother kisses her goodnight. Convinced this is how she passes “manna” to her daughter, the nurse reports back to the board who don’t believe her. The shits.

However (OBVS), as soon as the family are forbidden from making physical contact with Anna – her health finally starts to deteriorate, adding weight to Lib’s theory. Unfortunately, during one of their heart to hearts, the girl reveals some truly horrifying information pertaining to her brother’s death – and the subsequent reason for her fasting.

Based on this new information, Anna’s worsening condition and the lack of support from the church/council/Anna’s family, Lib is forced to take matters into her own hands – and the solution is dramatic to say the least.

All the while Lib has her own trauma to contend with which might also explain her connection to Anna and her subsequent fate. Hmm.

THOUGHTS

Fucking hell, this is a slow burn. Maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind, but this didn’t grip me at all, and I found the whole thing too much like hard work. The story itself is fine, if a little far-fetched given its religious undertones and I didn’t really care for Anna or her family. This is a bit odd given the reveal of what she’s been through, but I’ve said it now – have a sandwich or don’t, just leave me out of it.

Florence is of course incredible as Lib and her actions in the last 30 minutes show off true bad bitch energy but there’s a lot of moping about and whispered conversations that could have been more exciting. I think I might have felt more connected to the subject matter and the family had we spent more time with them but as it is their roles are very one note and peripheral.

That said, the cinematography, score and costuming are gorgeous so it’s not all bad. Sort of. I think I will watch Martyrs again, you know.

What does Jill make of this non-horror but no less explosive Florence Pugh character and her shenanigans? Would she force feed it until it pukes – or leave it to its own confusing devices? Find out here.

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