“The Wonder” - Movie Review

Story posted November 30, 2022 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Eliza Casey

Catholic guilt, a possible scientific/religious miracle, gorgeous visuals of the Irish countryside, and a seamless meld between that which is real and that which is rumored culminates into a simple yet compelling tale of a young girl who will not eat.

“The Wonder” is directed by Sebastián Lelio and based on a 2016 novel of the same name by author Emma Donoghue.

Sparsely yet expertly cast, Florence Pugh confirms yet again why she is one of the most promising new leads in the film industry.

Her acting alongside widely talented child actor, Kíla Lord Cassidy, fills this relatively barebones plot with character intensity and depth that urges the viewer to continue watching.

Aside from the acting, this film’s most powerful asset is its understanding of the time period’s history and setting.

Picture this: Ireland 1862, a country recovering from famine finds a miracle in a young fasting girl named Anna O’Donnell whose family claims she has not eaten in over four months.

For clarification, a fasting girl is a term used to describe a girl who declares she no longer needs food and can be nourished by god or her own religious piety; this trend was seen throughout the Victorian era, and the phenomenon is formally known as Anorexia mirabilis or holy anorexia.

Many of these girls and Catholics of the time believed fasting girls had special religious powers so many believers would seek out these girls for prayer and wisdom.

Anna’s rural, religious town, conflicted over the actuality of the situation, hires nun Sister Michael and nurse Elizabeth “Lib” Wright to watch the girl for two weeks to assess whether the girl is a miracle or a farce.

The film follows Englishwoman Lib’s journey handling her emotional baggage while forming a connection with Anna.

Anna is perfectly happy to be watched as she believes the watch will only confirm that her piety and devotion are what nourishes her body, referring to her new nourishment as “manna from Heaven.”

Over the course of those two weeks, Lib begins to uncover the truth of Anna’s situation and the O’Donnell family's past, and the locals begin to unravel a bit about Lib’s past.

Despite such a simple plot, this film manages to be intriguing by exploring religious quandaries, such as, what leads an individual to acts of self-flagellation and other forms of religious self-harm?

It also displays a variety of perspectives in the town leaders that reflect the variety of perspective at the time: those who are convinced she has not eaten in four months due to religious nourishment; those who are convinced she has not eaten but believe there is a possible, undiscovered scientific theory to back it; and, there are those who believe she is a liar for a variety of outlook affirming reasons.

But, most powerfully this film drills how sometimes the truth is irrelevant and what matters more is an individual's desire to have faith and reaffirm their worldview.

Whether it is the Bible or a textbook, this movie proclaims that everyone has their book of stories that they look towards to have faith.

With great acting, inspired historical reference, compelling themes and overall gorgeous color grading, cinematography and sound design, this film has almost everything.

However, slow pacing paired with very little action made for a film that is easy to get distracted from watching.

Many of the great elements draw the viewer back in, but the film’s premise occurring 80% of the time in a dark, small attic at snail's pass can cause the viewer to drift, especially at the beginning.

Ultimately, the first half of the movie can be difficult to focus on, but a discovery in the second half leads the plot into an unexpected turn that leaves the audience with more questions than were initially answered.

This film is not for everyone, but for any film buffs, Florence Pugh fans, Catholics, drama lovers and/or history nerds, this may be a film for you.- Eliza Casey

Rating: 4/5

Eliza Casey is a second-year majoring in telecommunications. To contact her, email egc5236@psu.edu.