MRR Review: "To the Wonder"

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After visiting Mont Saint-Michel, Marina and Neil come to Oklahoma, where problems arise. Marina meets a priest and fellow exile, who is struggling with his vocation, while Neil renews his ties with a childhood friend, Jane. The film stars Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko.
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MRR Review: "To the Wonder"

-- Rating: R
Length: 112 minutes
Release Date: April 12, 2013
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Genre: Drama/Romance

"To the Wonder" is a 2012 romantic drama. It was directed by Terrence Malick and stars Ben Affleck (Neil), Rachel McAdams (Jane), Olga Kurylenko (Marina), and Javier Bardem (Father Quintana). This film, like some others that have come to popular release, was first viewed at the 2012 Venice Film Festival. This film has become notable partially because it was the last film that Roger Ebert reviewed before his death on April 4, 2013.

The basic storyline of the movie follows an American man who begins to connect with a woman from his past and hometown. He becomes involved with a former girlfriend as his current relationship with a European woman has fallen apart.

At the beginning of the movie, Neil returns to Oklahoma City, his hometown, with his European partner, Marina, and her child. The woman settles into her new life in America, and Neil takes a job as an environmental inspector. Although they intended for this to be a romantic, new life, the relationship begins to cool and Marina begins speaking to Father Quintana, an immigrant who is struggling with his faith. At the same time, doubt and pressure from work begin to sour Neil's feelings, and he begins to reconnect with a friend, Jane, who was once a romantic interest. When Marina's visa expires, she returns home to France with her child.

This movie is sure to strike the hearts of moviegoers for a few reasons. First, it has some realistic moments that anyone who has struggled with a relationship is sure to understand. New jobs, new living areas, and children are all parts of a growing and changing relationship, and that's part of the plot that certainly is not lacking. The story realistically exposes how a relationship can be weakened over time by simple yet gradually increasing problems that aren't addressed.

The story draws audiences in with the idealistic grand notion that love conquers all, and Neil has the wonderful appearance of a man who wants to change a woman's and her daughter's lives. He takes responsibility and makes commitments to them, and they begin on the road to a new life.

However, the fact that old flames are reunited and that the immigrant may be struggling with her place in a new country is part of the way the relationship is undone. Small questions about faith, the health of the relationship, loyalty, and intentions work their way into the plot, eventually coming to a point where Neil is falling in love with Jane while Marina plans to return to her country.

This very realistic telling of a story is something that those with immigrant relatives might understand and relate to, and anyone who has been in a relationship that has been challenging will also understand the hardships the characters face. Although the story continues as Marina experiences hardships and struggles in her own country that Neil eventually has to address, the overall focus of the movie shows just how difficult a relationship can be when everything has to change to make it work.

The movie itself has a wonderful flow; there are few moments that audience members are left wondering or bored with a lack of dialog or interesting views. The addition of a child to the mix of the relationship may give audience members emotional and moral dilemmas. In general, the child's role is only to the advantage of the plot because it gives Marina a reason for wanting to leave. This one scene makes the audience understand the frustration, pain, and loss of seeing someone who is loved having to leave the place they are supposed to belong.

Audience members can expect to be moved to tears in some scenes while smiling at the simple gestures made in the name of love in others. While "To the Wonder" may have some people feeling bad for Marina or Neil, rooting for Jane, arguing the morality of the situation, or angered at the difficulties of the relationship, it's sure to strike a few chords with anyone who watches it.

Rating 3 out of 5