“Set in rustic central Italy, The Wonders revolves around a family that bears traces of writer-director Alice Rohrwacher’s own,” writes Melissa Anderson for Artforum. “The filmmaker, like her adolescent protagonist Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), the oldest of four girls, is the daughter of a German father and an Italian mother (played, in a further bit of oblique backstory fidelity, by Rohrwacher’s elder sister Alba) who make their living as beekeepers. Similar to its predecessor, Corpo Celeste, an NYFF selection in 2011, The Wonders is an uncommonly graceful coming-of-age story, rooted as much in the fantastical as the material. Of its otherwordly pleasures, none is more delightful than the bizarre regional-promo spot—the filming of which Gelsomina and her sibs stumble onto after a day splashing in a lake—that spotlights Monica Bellucci in Cicciolina-like fake blonde tresses. The movie also honors the spirit of the beehive, relaying, in several detailed scenes, the hard work of harvesting honey—labor that Gelsomina takes so seriously that at one point she is referred to as ‘the head of the family,’ an undue burden against which the teenager slowly begins to chafe.”
Notebook editor Daniel Kasman is no fan of Corpo Celeste and finds that, while Rohrwacher’s “Cannes Grand Jury Prize winner is an improvement in imagemaking, it still has a way to go in filmmaking. Much of the slovenly camerawork and garbled, unmotivated editing remains, draining an already naturally lackadaisical story of any sense of urgency, but with these more forceful images Rohrwacher holds up her winsome picture at a quietly delicate place overlapping countryside farming tale, Italian cultural parody, mystical fable, and hippie commune saga.”
“While Rohrwacher may get tripped up in narrative staging, her eye is more or less without fault,” finds Sarah Salovaara at Filmmaker. “Hélène Louvart’s cinematography is some of my favorite this year, and not just for its 16mm foundations. Rohrwacher is deliberate in her framing—lingering on a shot when you’re expecting the reverse, meandering from face to face or object to object just long enough to sustain a sense of urgency, always wary of color and composition.”
Update, 10/4: Dustin Chang talks with Alice Rohrwacher for Twitch.
Update, 10/9: “Despite its visual imprecision (it’s not a film of elegant compositions), The Wonders speaks with the strong authorial voice of a curious and instinctive storyteller,” writes Michael Koresky at Reverse Shot. “Often the camera will scan across a space, taking in her many characters, but without a clear path or endpoint: what are we looking at or for? This is refreshing as a narrative approach, as Rohrwacher doesn’t seem interested in telling us what we should be thinking; rather she lets us accompany these people from one task to the next. There’s no fetishizing or romanticizing of work or youth, just a matter-of-fact, if narratively furtive, take on communal living and familial interaction.”
Update, 10/10: Violet Lucca talks with Rohrwacher for Film Comment.
Update, 11/10: The Wonders is comprised of “scenes that are elegantly attenuated without turning anecdotal or feeling inconsequential,” writes Nicolas Rapold for Film Comment.