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Florence Pugh Is The Miracle In Netflix’s Haunting Movie

Jan 22, 2023

Home Movie Reviews The Wonder Review: Florence Pugh Is The Miracle In Netflix’s Haunting Movie

Pugh carries The Wonder when it threatens to buckle under lofty ideas that it’s reticent to explore with the fervor its subject matter would call for.

Florence Pugh has proven she can dominate the screen no matter the strength of the film behind her. Earlier this year, she starred in Olivia Wilde’s Don’t Worry Darling and carried that film through sheer force of will. In The Wonder, directed by Sebastián Lelio (Gloria Bell, A Fantastic Woman), Pugh does something similar while having much more to work with. The Wonder may buckle under lofty ideas the film seems reticent to explore with the religious fervor its subject would call for, but it is a beautiful and haunting film thanks to the impeccable behind-the-scenes talent and Pugh’s magnetism. Still, The Wonder will leave many wanting more when it comes to what lurks beneath its fascinating story.
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Pugh plays Lib Wright, an English nurse called to a remote Irish village to watch over Anna O’Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy), a young girl who has not eaten anything since her 11th birthday but is still miraculously alive. In eight-hour shifts, Lib and one other woman, a nun named Sister Michael (Josie Walker), are to watch Anna and report their findings to a local council at the end of a two-week period. Lib is naturally skeptical, searching every crook and crevice in the O’Donnell home for hidden food. The less scientifically inclined members of the village believe they are witnessing a miracle and Lib becomes hellbent on proving them wrong as journalists, believers, and non-believers descend on the village.

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Florence Pugh and Josie Walker in The Wonder

The Wonder is an eerie film, and Matthew Herbert’s score evokes an unnerving chill as Ari Wegner’s camera glides over a lush but sparse Irish landscape. Wegner (whose recent work includes The Power of the Dog, an equally haunting film) has the camera floating in and out of village homes and over the windswept tundra, acting as a ghost itself, an unseen miracle siding with Lib and her determination to root out the O’Donnell family’s potential fraud.

The script, which is adapted by Emma Donoghue from her own 2016 novel, rightly stays with Lib’s perspective as she battles a traumatic past and a village that would rather her not be there at all. The English nurse is faced with all sorts of pushback while trying to do her job, a tough prospect for anyone, let alone a woman being overseen by a council of men who do not trust her, regardless of whether they are men of faith or science. The harsh landscape only serves to compound these issues, as does the nun also sent to watch over Anna. Lib is not to confer with her to make sure their findings are unbiased, but there’s a coldness to Sister Michael and Walker’s staunch performance that adds to the unsettling nature of the task at hand.

Unfortunately, The Wonder isn’t all too interested in this task, overlooking the battle between faith and fact for more interpersonal interests as well as a romantic subplot that would feel unnecessary save for its usefulness in The Wonder’s ending. It’s an ending that feels more like a deus ex machina than an earned development, but once again, Pugh is the film’s saving grace, as is a scene of Lib confronting the council with her findings.

In the way Pugh holds the film together, so too does Leilo and Wegner’s work. The supporting cast also does tremendous work with what little they’re given, including Tom Burke, Ciarán Hinds, Toby Jones, Niamh Algar, and more rounding out the ensemble. For all their work in making The Wonder an atmospheric feat about miracles and the damage they can do, though, The Wonder’s concept ultimately goes unexplored. This could be forgiven if the subtext weren’t laid bare early on with the mention of Ireland’s Great Famine and the clear connection to the “fasting girls” of the Victorian era. There may be few miracles in The Wonder, but it’s clear that Pugh is one unto herself.

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The Wonder premiered on Netflix Wednesday, November 16. The film is 108 minutes long and rated R for some sexuality.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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