The Wonder (2022) Netflix Movie Review – A film you can believe in!

A film you can believe in!

Director Sebastián Lelio’s new film The Wonder is set in the aftermath of the Great Famine in 1862 Ireland but if you’re expecting to be thrust headlong into the film’s ravaged Irish setting within the opening few moments, you are going to be in for a surprise.

Instead of a shot of the wind-swept Irish countryside or the cobbled streets of one of the country’s small towns, the film begins in a modern-day film studio with a voiceover from actress Niamh Algar, one of the key players from the film.

As the camera pans across the studio, she introduces us to the film’s story. She says:

“This is the beginning. The beginning of a film called The Wonder. The people you’re about to meet are characters. Believe in their stories with complete devotion. We are nothing without stories, and so we invite you to believe in this one.”

The camera then settles on the set of a boat cabin and the actors playing out their roles within. One of these actors is Florence Pugh who is sitting at a creaky wooden table eating a meal while smoke rises from a stove behind her.

So, what is Lelio’s intention with this curious opening? Well, it’s a kind of metaphor for the film’s main story. Encouraging us to believe in a tale that starts on a film stage and an artificial boat is purposeful because Pugh’s nurse, Lib Wright, is also encouraged to believe in something that, on the surface, seems like a hoax.

Moments after the ‘fake’ opening, we see Lib on a horse-drawn carriage being transported through the Irish countryside to the village inn where she has booked a room to stay. As the film is now on location, we can start to believe in the events that follow, as we were invited to at the beginning.

But what about the nurse? She has been hired to watch over Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy), a young girl who is observing a religious fast. Anna hasn’t eaten for several months but remarkably, she seems healthy. This is the miracle that has entranced the people in the local community but is the girl’s story something Lib can believe in?

Well, no. She is sceptical of this so-called ‘miracle’ and her only concern is for the health and well-being of Anna. She is worried that the girl may be starving but when she tries to convince the village elders of this, they ridicule her position and tell her to get back to the job they hired her to do. It’s clear that some of the committee do believe in Anna’s story with “complete devotion,” as incredulous as it might seem.

But is God really sustaining Anna with “manna from Heaven” as the child herself suggests, or is she dangerously ill? Or is she pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes with the help of her family?  The answer isn’t one we can reveal here but you’ll be glad to know that the truth is eventually revealed during the final section of the film. Whether or not you’ll be satisfied with the truth will depend on whether you sit on the side of science or religion.

Thanks to the expert cinematography which perfectly captures the look and feel of famine-ravaged Ireland it is easy to believe that what we are watching is real. The acting helps us to suspend our disbelief, thanks to the accomplished performances of Pugh, Cassidy, and all of the surrounding players, and Lelio’s direction does much to draw us into this strange tale too.

The eerie music score, with its whistles, howls, and ephemeral voices, makes a powerful impact, and this, combined with the dark visuals of Anna’s home, with its flickering candles and jumping shadows, adds to the haunting feel of the film. This isn’t to say the film borders on horror territory but there are dark themes beneath the surface that are gradually unveiled as Anna’s backstory is revealed.

Of course, we know we are only watching a story play out but it’s one that isn’t too hard to believe in. This isn’t only because of the technical prowess of the filmmakers and the accomplished acting but because the film is set in a time and place where people did cling to the idea of miracles to lift themselves from the despair caused by the recent famine.

The Wonder is available to stream on Netflix now and is highly recommended. It’s slow in parts so it does require patience, but if you are able to “believe in the story with complete devotion,” you will be rewarded with an expertly made film that will give you much food for thought long after the end credits have rolled.


Read More: The Wonder Ending Explained

Feel free to check out more of our movie reviews here!

  • Verdict - 7.5/10

Leave a comment