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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A New Trailer Emerges for Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder," Starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem

As you might have gathered from my scathing review of The Tree of Life last year, I'm not what you would call a die-hard fan of writer/director Terrence Malick. But, man, does he know how to make something look good, even without it actually being good.

It looks like he's up to his old tricks again in the new trailer for To the Wonder, which is of course virtually mute except for Javier Bardem's intriguing voiceover. What we can discern is that the movie will be quite sensual and probably filled with beautiful imagery that may or may not tell a story about, which, in the usual case of Malick films, may or may not be interesting.

Here's the LONG official synopsis (from Indiewire):

TO THE WONDER, written and directed by Terrence Malick, is a romantic drama centered on Neil, a man who is torn between two loves: Marina, the European woman who came to United States to be with him, and Jane, the old flame he reconnects with from his hometown. In TO THE WONDER, Malick explores how love and its many phases and seasons – passion, sympathy, obligation, sorrow, indecision – can transform, destroy, and reinvent lives.

As TO THE WONDER opens, Neil and Marina are together on the French island of Mont St. Michel – known in France as The Wonder of the Western World (Merveille de l’Occident) – and invigorated by feelings of being newly in love. Neil, an aspiring writer, has left the United States in search of a better life, leaving behind a string of unhappy affairs. Looking into Marina’s eyes as the Abbey looms in the distance, Neil is certain he has finally found the one woman he can love with commitment. He makes a vow to be true to this woman alone.

Marina, quiet and beautiful, with flashes of a mischievous humor, is divorced and the mother of a 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana. At 16, Marina left the Ukraine for Paris without a cent to her name. There, she married a Frenchman who abandoned her after just two years, leaving her alone with Tatiana in a studio apartment. Marina was forced to work a variety of temporary jobs to make her way. Having nearly given up hope, Marina is overcome with joy to be in love with Neil, her salvation from an unhappy future.

Two years later, Neil and Marina are living in a small town in Oklahoma, close to where Neil grew up. Neil, having given up his hopes of becoming a writer, has taken a job as an environmental inspector. Neil is happy with his work, but his love for Marina cools as she, for her part, is frustrated by the holding pattern she feels she is in with Neil. She fears her youth – and happiness – are slipping away. In spite of her anxieties about Neil, Marina initially feels at home in Oklahoma, embraced by the open space and sky, and soothed by the sounds that come from the wind harp that animates breezes into songs.

Seeking advice, Marina turns to another exile in the community, a Catholic priest named Quintana. We learn that Father Quintana has come to grapple with his own dilemmas, as he harbors doubts about his vocation. He no longer feels the ardor he knew in the first days of his faith, and wonders if he ever will again.

Professional life throws Neil into conflict as well, when he discovers that a smelting operation in town is polluting the soil and water and threatening the health of future generations. His concerns fail to persuade his neighbors, who depend on the smelter for their livelihoods. Under pressure to keep quiet, Neil must once again weigh the consequences of his actions. Neil’s doubts about Marina intensify. This, coupled with the fact that Marina’s visa is soon to expire, leads her to return to France with her daughter. In her absence, Neil reconnects with Jane, an old friend. As the two of them fall deeply in love, Neil finds this new relationship far less complicated. Yet when word comes to him that Marina has fallen on hard times and her daughter has gone to live with her father and refuses to have anything more to do with her, he finds himself gripped by a sense of responsibility for her well being, and arranges for her return to the United States.

Neil’s entanglements with the two women in his life, and Father Quintana’s struggle with his faith, force them both to consider different kinds of love. Should the commitment they each made be undertaken as a duty, sometimes full of effort? Or should we accept that love often changes, and doesn't always last? Can sorrow bind lovers more tightly than joy?

This sounds like it could be deeply poetic, which I hope is captured in the film. It will be good to see Ben Affleck (Neil) in this kind of role (he's rested on the tough, lost guy characters throughout his career), and Bardem play against type as the Catholic priest.

Also, I really hope Rachel McAdams can repair the shattered pieces of her once promising career with the role of Jane (who sounds much like her character in Midnight in Paris).

Another person is simply mesmerizing in the trailer is Olga Kurylenko, who plays Marina. I don't know what she's doing exactly, but she makes me interesting to find out.

To the Wonder releases in theaters April 12th.


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