The Wonders

April 30, 2015 at 10:07 am | Posted in 2015 | Leave a comment
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It’s been a while since I’ve attended a film festival. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, I seem to be lousy at picking out the movies worth seeing and, second, I then end up reviewing movies that many readers will never be able to see because they’re not picked up for U.S. distribution. However, I did catch this modest Italian work at the International Film Festival yesterday. This movie did have moments of true beauty, mostly by virtue of its cinematography. It started with the approach of two headlights in the dark and ended on curtains blowing around an empty door. These are stark, simple images that can effectively evoke emotions. There are other smart cinematic choices, as well. As when the image of two children playing is caught in their shadows dancing on a cave wall. It also helps that the Tuscan scenery is stunning; this is a film that’s easy to look at. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy to understand. Folks needing a traditional story arch (protagonist, a goal, antagonist, conflict, resolution) will be disappointed here. And, while I certainly don’t need anything so cut and dry, I struggled a bit with where this film was trying to go and the oddly circuitous route it seemed to be taking to get there. It had a jumble of story lines and characters that seemed to sometimes dilute the core story, which seemed to be about a family in Tuscany and, in particular, the relationship between the father and his oldest daughter, both of whom gave lovely, endearing performances. The title refers to the “Countryside Wonders” contest  that the daughter wants her family to enter but her father does not want to. That story was sometimes sweet but could have been sweeter or more insightful or more touching if the film had focused on it. Instead, it all felt a bit like an episode of the Food Network tv show, “Chopped.” As though, the director opened his basket and found: a Tuscan farmhouse, a German man, a boy who can’t talk, a girl with bees in her mouth and a camel.  Okay, now make a movie with all of those ingredients in thirty minutes. Go. To be sure, there’s no shortage of wonder in a movie like that but I would have traded it for a bit more wonderful, instead.

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