Based on the novel by Emma Donoghue, THE WONDER (2022) is a psychological period drama pitting faith versus reason. Despite a difficult beginning, it finds its legs with a climax that had me on the edge of my seat. Overall, while it’s a bit sleepy in its first two acts, the whole comes together nicely, and overall it’s pretty darn good.
It’s 1862, and Elizabeth (Florence Pugh, who’s outstanding in the role), a British nurse, travels to a dreary rural village in Ireland to observe a young girl who appears not to eat nor need food to survive. As this is not that long after the Irish famine, you can imagine the impact this has on a religious country’s people, who travel far and wide to visit the miraculous girl. Apparently, this was a thing in the Victorian era; they were called the “fasting girls.”
Elizabeth’s task is to work with a nun in a 24-hour watch to determine if indeed some type of miracle is occurring. The town council set it up, with most of them fairly invested in the girl being the real deal, from the town priest who sees evidence of God to the town doctor who sees potential of discovering a new human faculty. Elizabeth suspects foul play and uncovers the truth of a family trapped by their beliefs in shame and repentance.
The movie takes its time, kind of a slow burner, which Pugh carries until the reveals dramatically ramp up the tension toward the climax. Overall, it’s quite a powerful story about salvation and the need for the right kind of it.
I do have one major quibble, though, which is how the story begins. We’re shown a movie production warehouse and given a narrated monologue about stories before the camera zooms in one of a constructed set to start the story. This did nothing for me and honestly wrecked my willing suspension of disbelief for almost the entire first act. At the end, they come back to it, and the device almost ruined things again. I just don’t see why they did that. It’s artsy and makes a point but man, does it throw things off.
Anyway, I liked THE WONDER one and found it powerful, and you might too.