Review: Alice Rohrwacher’s ‘The Wonders’ Is an Intriguing and Sometimes Bizarre Deep Dive into Family Dynamics

The Wonders_PosterIt’s been a while since I rapped at you all, so it’s nice to get back on the horse with a really interesting film. Alice Rohrwacher‘s The Wonders is as unique a film as I’ve seen this year, one in which we have all been overloaded with superheroes and super spies. It’s little films like these that occupy the nether regions of the cinematic universe that glue it all together.

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The film follows a family of beekeepers in rural Italy trying to make an honest living and create something beautiful from the land they inhabit. The patriarch, Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), ostensibly runs the operation, but it’s really his talented daughter Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) that is brains of the operation. She has a preternatural understanding of the bees and the honey harvesting operations, something her father seems to have to resent. Along with her sisters and a family friend, the family trundles along doing their best to build a strong business. Two things disrupt their lives and throw the world they know into upheaval – the family takes in Martin (Luis Huilca), a juvenile delinquent from Germany, and the interest of a television show looking for the best Countryside Wonders. Both promise much needed money to upgrade their operations and help provide a stronger base. However, Wolfgang doesn’t want to train the boy (that duty falls to Gelsomina) and he doesn’t want to whore out his family in an effort to win what equates to a reality TV show competition, something that is at odds with nearly everyone else in the family. As one might expect, the family dynamics shift and change and very few things go according to plan.

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While it might not seem that a drama about beekeeping could hold one’s interest for the 105 minute running time of the film, I can assure you it does. Rohrwacher‘s bold choices in location as well as the incredible cinematography work of DP Hélène Louvart (who also shot Wim Wnders‘ incredible doc Pina) creates a singularly unique experience. The color palette mimics the feeling of the characters, the land they inhabit. You feel totally immersed in the experience of these characters because Rohrwacher orchestrates all of these components like a symphony.

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One of my favorite parts of the film is when the family, who is swimming after a long day of tending hives comes across the TV show shooting promotional spots for their upcoming contest. The ethereal nature of the shoot (seen in the picture above) is compounded by the presence of Milly (Monica Bellucci, whom I would argue is at the top of the list of the most beautiful women on Earth). Her presence in every scene she appears in carries with it the most dreamlike feeling, one that experienced most of all by Gelsomina. This adds an entirely new level of depth to the film and to the characters experiences.

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This is a really interesting film and one quite worthy of catching should you have the chance. This film is being distributed by Oscilloscope Laboratories and The Match Factory, both top quality outfits. This film hit theaters on both coasts last week. Hopefully it will be expanding into your area soon.

Get there, people.

About Jeremy Harmon

He is Jeremy Harmon aka Spirit of the Thing aka Harmonov. Once a Van Damme/action movie devotee, he now prefers to delve into small budget, independent and foreign films. Jeremy maintains that Slap Shot is the best movie ever. Follow him on Twitter @harmonov or read his new blog @ http://spiritofthething.wordpress.com/