Florence Pugh has been an IT girl of late with her breakout role in Lady Macbeth and a few years later, in 2019, she had a huge year with Fighting with my Family in which she played Paige the WWE wrestler from Great Britain. In the summer of that same year, she was in the second film from Ari Aster Midsummer, and later that year she was in the remake of Little Woman in which she was nominated for a best-supporting actress at the academy awards. Suffice it to say she has had a great start to her career. Her latest film The Wonder is another period piece.
Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) is a nurse from England who has been dispatched to a little town in Ireland in 1862 along with a nun to observe a teenage girl, Anna O’Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy) who has been fasting for four months and people from all over have come to see this young girl because they believe it’s a miracle. There may be other factors involved in why this girl hasn’t gotten sick from not eating though. The doctors and priests in town are disputing that the girl is not a wonder.
The filmmakers get all the little details right in this small but important story. They show the aspect of how travel isn’t easy and how important eating was during this period. Also how religion played into decisions people made. How superstitious people can sway good folk. Even how a nosey newspaperman William Bryne (Tom Burke, The Souvenir 1 & 2) can put his beliefs into the ear of the nurse.
There are a lot of little things said and done that bring this story together. The production value of the film brings me back to that time in history perfectly. Everything in the movie reminded me of great period films of the past. The clothes and hair and makeup were all on point. This era in history wasn’t an easy one to live in. The men and the woman weren’t necessarily treated the same either. How the parents of the girl acted toward an outsider was indicative of how they were as parents. They had ulterior motives for this whole situation. The mindset regarding most of the people in this town wasn’t the best.
Besides Pugh and Burke, there were a group of other established character actors in the film that stood out. Tobey Jones played a doctor who didn’t necessarily care for the well-being of the young girl. Ciaran Hinds played a priest who was at odds with the doctor but also was not going along with the nurse either. Elaine Cassidy played the girl’s mother. She kept this whole scenario going longer than it should have. These actors helped round out a great ensemble.
This film has a few issues that may turn a lot of audiences off but for me, they weren’t an issue and those were the length of the movie. It isn’t a short film and it does drag from time to time but these moments had things I could follow along with. Like conversations and various character development moments. This type of film could just be a slog and boring but it’s not. It is very fascinating to see how people during this era in history think regarding things like fasting and how it plays into their mindset of living their lives and going about their business.
The Wonder is a fascinating look at a period in history rarely seen in a film. How religion and the belief system of these people thought was fascinating to me. In regards to the rest of the film, the technical aspects of the production value and costumes and hair makeup design were very very good. These characters looked and sounded like the parts they were playing. This film isn’t going to blow people away with the story or anything else but I thought it had a good message about not believing everything you see. More often than not it’s not true.
3 ½ stars
Dan Skip Allen