Terrence Malick's new film "To the Wonder" showcases the director's signature dreamlike, abstract style. Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman filed the following movie review for NY1.
Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" is the work of a director who now sees himself as a holy poet of cinema.
The film's style is ethereal and incantatory, with a soundtrack woven out of whispers and classical music. If anything, it makes Malick's "The Tree of Life" look like a Noël Coward play.
Ben Affleck, with barely a line to speak - he's used for his tall, chiseled masculine presence - plays a man who is overseeing the construction of a Southwestern suburb as barren and remote as a moon colony. He's fallen for a single mother from Paris, played by Olga Kurylenko, and Malick features the two of them in dartingly inquisitive handheld camera slices of life. On holiday, they travel and wander and caress and love. The first part of the film is like a moody existential Hallmark card.
Then Affleck brings Kurylenko, along with her tween daughter, back to the States, where we behold an unfolding psychodrama: closeness followed by spasms of anger, then a reconciliation, then a separation, spurred by Kurylenko's visa expiring.
All of this is the stuff of drama, but Malick stages it as a series of fragmented, mostly nonverbal moments. At one point, someone asks in voice-over, "How had hate come to take the place of love?" You'd think that would be an important question, but the movie never answers it.
Through the character of a saddened priest, played by Javier Bardem, Malick seems to be saying that the reason for our breakups, for our fragmented lives and relationships, is that we can no longer see God. If we could, we would be whole again. That may be true, but in "To the Wonder", it's Terrence Malick who isn't letting his characters be whole.