Film review: To the Wonder (12A)
Terrence Malick is a director with no fear of the high-flown. His yearning meditations on love and transcendence flirt with portentousness, yet they are so achingly felt and beautifully made you can't help wanting to like them.
To the Wonder is something of a climbdown from the thin air of his previous, The Tree of Life, but it's absolutely characteristic in its style: the gnomic voiceovers, the desultory edits, the undramatised vagueness.
Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko play off-and-on lovers, first in her native Paris, later in the serene midwestern nowhere-town where he grew up. Something is wrong between them, but it takes a lot of mystical blather and strained silences for us to work out what it might be.
In between we eavesdrop on the thoughts of a Catholic priest (Javier Bardem), harrowed by his poor parishioners, and of Rachel McAdams as an old flame of Affleck's returning to complicate matters. As ever with Malick, clarity of meaning lags some way behind clarity of vision. Because he prefers voiceover to dialogue the reality of his characters' lives always feels at one remove; everything seems oblique, provisional, muffled.
"What is this love that loves us?" is a typical Malick line in that it sounds quite profound but leaves you wondering what the hell it means. He also uses his actors in the way that Caspar David Friedrich paints his lonely figures in a landscape; brooding and enigmatic for Affleck, floaty and girlish for Kurylenko, who does more twirling around fields and supermarket aisles than even an admirer could decently stand.
Yes, the sight of her coppery brown hair matching the autumn leaves at magic hour is quite something, but I'd trade most of that for a single spoken line that doesn't sound like it came from a prayer or a poem. Malick loves her wavy hair even more than he does wavy net curtains and wavy cornfields. She's beautiful, of course, but, just like this film, maddening after a while.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I was raped by another man. And now the Government wants to take away the one thing that saved my life
- 2 Preston fan who appeared to snatch Jermaine Beckford's shirt from eight-year-old boy identified and says: 'the truth will come out'
- 3 Priest warns pupils the 'Charlie Charlie Challenge' is 'demonic activity'
- 4 Iran launches anti-Isis cartoon competition 'to expose true nature of Islamic State'
- 5 US warned by Chinese media to stop meddling or 'war will be inevitable'
Stolen Instagram photo sells for $90,000
Suicide Squad: leaked footage gives us first look at Batmobile chasing Joker through city streets
ASAP Rocky releases star-studded new album 'At. Long. Last. ASAP' a week early
Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show's most iconic characters just met
Never Mind the Buzzcocks axed after 18 years
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote