Usually, trailers try to sell you on a movie by breaking it down into easily digestible fragments. Terrence Malick movies, while not exactly easy to market, certainly open themselves up to this process of extraction since they’re entirely composed of fragments. The “Tree of Life” trailer was a rapid collage that more or less encapsulated that movie’s full range of visual experiences. Now we have “To the Wonder,” a comparatively tamer work with a trailer nonetheless similar in its direct mirroring of the movie in question. (Magnolia Pictures will release it in April, but it opens in the UK in February.)
Malick’s swooning, cosmic approach to spiritual pontification isn’t for everyone, and while “Tree of Life” may have won over more people than usual because of its epic scope, “To the Wonder” maintains a slighter feel that boils down the filmmaker’s predilections to their barest ingredients. The trailer echoes that; watching it, you know exactly what to expect. Watch it below:
Here’s an excerpt from Indiewire’s review of the film from the Toronto International Film Festival:
Terrence Malick’s approach to cinematic philosophizing is so consistent it threatens to devolve into self-parody. However, he never lacks commitment to the strain of lyricism visible throughout his career. While few will deny that he sometimes leans too heavily on introspective voiceovers and majestic nature shots as signposts for his spiritual obsessions, even his transparent stabs at big ideas contain an earnest search for meaning. “The Tree of Life” was the epitome of Malick’s cosmic fixations, but the comparatively muted “To the Wonder” delivers a similar collage of memories and desires in more easily digestible fragments.
Malick’s first movie to take place in contemporary times regards the modern age as a desolate environment of bland roads, expansive fields and nondescript edifices — all vagaries that suit the overarching sense that the entire experience consists of memories, some more vivid than others. There’s no story save for a series of situations: Marina (Olga Kuylenko), a soul-searching Ukranian raising her young daughter alone in Paris, falls in love with traveling American Neil (Ben Affleck) and moves to Oklahoma with him. There she grows increasingly frustrated with their stationary existence, finding some modicum of solace from a Spanish priest (Javier Bardem). At a certain point Neil rekindles an old romance with an American woman (Rachel McAdams) and faces a separate moral quandary when his job as an environmental inspector leads him to discover a conspiracy. His relationship deteriorates and Marina returns home, but the possibility of a reunion isn’t out of the question.
These events unfold less like exposition than individual moments that drift past within the context of a larger collage. Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography once again showcases Malick’s restless camera as he roams from one expressive scene to another, catching his lovers in extreme close-ups and under the bedsheets but almost never sitting still. Props in a moving picture book that keeps fluttering by, the stars of “To the Wonder” are at the mercy of Malick’s greater tapestry.
Read the rest of the review here.