The Wonders – Movie Review

The Wonders

The Wonders– Movie Review by Frank L.

Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Writer: Alice Rohrwacher
Stars: Alba Rohrwacher, Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck

Into a world of voluntary, self-sufficient subsistence, in a remote ram-shackled farmhouse in Northern Italy, a father (Sam Louwyck) and his wife (Alba Rohrwacher) are raising their four daughters, the eldest of whom Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) is approximately twelve years of age. She is beginning to realise that there is a world outside of bee keeping which is the primary economic activity of her family as the production of honey is the means by which they subsist. A little gender balance is in addition added to the proceedings by an adolescent boy who has had a troubled past who comes to live with them and help with the bee keeping.

By chance Gelsomina becomes aware of a somewhat tacky TV show “Village Wonders” which seeks to find a winner of the most authentically produced food product. There are many scenes relating to bee-keeping whose veils and gloves have a splendid surreal quality against the bucolic landscape. The processes of gathering the honey and by means of a rickety old centrifuge, reducing it to the correct consistency, is likely to make any food inspector wince. However Gelsomina thinks that her family’s honey would be an ideal candidate for the TV programme and if they won they could buy a new laboratory. The razzmatazz of the show and the prize money are of no interest to the father. Despite her father’s resistance, Gelsomina becomes involved in the TV show and has a useful party trick which she can use which enables her to hold two live bees in her mouth and then allow them in succession to crawl over her face. The hostess (Monica Belucci) of the TV show is all you might expect, with a suitably unlikely headdress, which brings a further world of wackiness to the story which continues on its off-beat way.

The Wonders was selected in Cannes 2014 to be a contender for the Palme d’Or and did win the Grand Prix. However notwithstanding the veracity of the daily work struggle in juxtaposition to the tawdry glitz of the TV show, there is not enough substance or tension in the story to give it muscle. So while it engages at a gentle level, it fails to captivate.


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