REVIEW: The Wonder (2022)

Florence Pugh, right, in Sebastián Lelio’s THE WONDER — PHOTO: Aidan Monaghan / NETFLIX.

Directed by Sebastián Lelio — Screenplay by Emma Donoghue, Alice Birch, and Sebastián Lelio.

General audiences are unlikely to see an opening shot as surprising or even mystifying as the opening shot in Sebastián Lelio’s The Wonder. If you go in knowing that you are about to watch a period drama set in the 1800s, then you’re going to raise your eyebrows when you see what awaits you. Lelio’s first shot shows an empty film set warehouse and a scaffolded house that likely contains a principal set for the film. A female voice sets the mood by way of an absorbing and mysterious narration that emphasizes how the characters in the story cling to and fully believe the stories they tell. As the camera glides into a set containing Florence Pugh in-character, the film begins properly. It is a showy opening that is effective in underlining the questionable reality of the stories we ourselves gather around a television — or inside a theater — to watch, and, even though this framing device is a narrative-breaking technique (not its only fourth wall-breaker in the film) that isn’t wholly unique (just see last year’s HBO Scenes From A Marriage remake), it absolutely is an opening that takes your hand and asks you to partake in the story’s mystery. I think you should accept the offer and the instruction to buy into what you’re seeing.

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REVIEW: The Souvenir (2019)

Theatrical Release Poster – A24 / Curzon Artificial Eye

The following is a short review of The Souvenir — Directed by Joanna Hogg.

Joanna Hogg’s The Souvenir is a semi-autobiographical film about a young and posh film student’s romantic relationship with Anthony, a seemingly both successful and self-important somewhat older man. In her first major film role, Honor Swinton Byrne (the daughter of Tilda Swinton, who is also in the film, and playwright John Byrne) plays Julie, the aforementioned aspiring filmmaker, whereas Tom Burke (Only God Forgives) plays Anthony, whose addiction threatens to tear their relationship apart. It is one of the most critically acclaimed independent films of the year. However, I think that Joanna Hogg’s coming-of-age film about toxic relationships, artistic growth, and privilege is disappointingly dull and uninvolving. Continue reading “REVIEW: The Souvenir (2019)”