Directed by: Todd Haynes | 116 minutes | drama, family | Actors: Millicent Simmonds, Oakes Fegley, Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Cory Michael Smith, James Urbaniak, Damian Young, John P. McGinty, Ekaterina Samsonov, Sawyer Niehaus, Lilianne Rojek, Jaden Michael, Tom Noonan, Morgan Turner, Amy Hargreaves, Sawyer Nunes, John Boyd
Books by writer and illustrator Brian Selznick are generally rewarding material for renowned directors. Martin Scorsese was responsible for the filming of “Hugo” in 2011 and director Todd Haynes for the filming of the equally fairytale “Wonderstruck”. Haynes, who previously managed to paint a majestic image of the 1950s in his masterpiece ‘Carol’, succeeds with verve in his mission to capture the atmosphere of New York in the 1930s and 1970s, although the film lacks some fat. the bones to really last.
In “Wonderstruck” two seeking children are central. In the 1970s, we follow Ben, whose mother (a disappointingly small role by Michelle Williams) was recently killed in an accident. After his mother’s accident, Ben grows up at his aunt’s house in Minnesota, haunted by the ignorance of his father’s identity, which only comes to him in a recurring nightmare. In his parental home, Ben discovers an old book containing a bookmark from a bookstore in New York with a message from his father on it. After an accident, Ben becomes deaf and decides to look for his father in New York. Parallel to this storyline, we follow the also deaf Rose (a role of Millicent Simmonds, who is also deaf in real life, also made an impression in “A Quiet Place”). Growing up alone with her wealthy, authoritarian father in the 1920s, Rose spends her days updating a scrapbook of a famous actress (Julianne Moore). After yet another conflict with her father, Rose decides to look for the actress. “Wonderstruck” is therefore primarily a film about the quest of these children, and the way in which they deal with the lack of parenthood.
With a setup like this it is waiting for the two separate storylines to come together. And perhaps therein lies the main problem of “Wonderstruck”: the film is visually overwhelming, but, certainly in the first half, does not involve much in terms of content. After a while you will know roughly how the situation works and how the various characters are connected. The film is mainly about the power of images, supported by a beautiful soundtrack. Those who expect a certain amount of tension building will probably find it difficult to get their money’s worth with “Wonderstruck”. The run-up to the moment when the storylines converge takes just a little too long, so that the attention on three-quarters of the film may have diminished. The film also lacks emotional impact and the ending is a bit too sentimental.
Yet all this does not alter the fact that “Wonderstruck” has turned out to be a very beautiful film, along with excellent acting by the main characters. Julianne Moore manages to impress in an almost “silent” role. The same goes for Simmonds, who proves she is an up-and-coming talent. Plot-technically, the film may not surprise enough, but Haynes makes up for it with his fairytale approach. “Wonderstruck” is a film for the connoisseur, where the viewer has to surrender to the visual magic that Todd Haynes knows how to create.