The Wonder (2022) is a period drama based on the novel of the same name by Emma Donoghue. It was directed by Sebastián Lelio who also wrote the screenplay alongside Donoghue and Alice Birch. The film stars Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kíla Lord Cassidy and Niamh Algar.
Read the summary and review below
Streaming on Netflix
The Wonder (2022) - Movie Summary
The nurse and the patient
In 1862, Elizabeth “Lib” Wright is a professional nurse that is sent to a remote Irish village to watch over an eleven-year old child named Anna O’Donnell. Anna is deemed a wonder because she supposedly have survived for 4 months without food. When Lib got there, she is told that she would be taking shifts with a nun, Sister Micheal, The two of them were supposed to put in their independent assessment of the situation after the watch is over.
When Lib head over to the O’Donnell’s home, she realizes that they are a deeply religious bunch. This includes Anna’s mother, father and sister, Kitty. Even Anna claims to have survived because she consumed mana from heaven. All these made Lib skeptical of the idea that Anna could survive without food, especially since Anna looks like a healthy child. Her suspicion is also shared by a journalist, William Byrne. Both William and Lib had horrible pasts and the two start a relationship. But that was not the only relationship that grew stronger. During her time there, Lib and Anna shared some banter and the nurse-patient pair form a weird bond.
In the brink of death
In time, Lib starts to notice that Anna’s mother always cups Anna’s cheeks when she kisses Anna good night and good morning. Suspicious, Lib banned the family from touching Anna. Then, Anna starts to get weaker and more frail. Despite Anna insisting on not eating anything, Lib tries to force feed her, but cannot bring herself to go with it.
During a private time together, Anna revealed that she was raped by her elder brother when she was nine. Her elder brother has since passed from a disease and the O’Donnell’s believe that he would go to hell for his actions. But they wanted him to be retributed and so, Anna had to go on this fast. Despite her brother’s wrongdoings, Anna still wants her brother’s soul to go to heaven.
However, Lib could not bear to see Anna dying any longer and reported Anna’s mother’s actions to the council. Unfortunately, the council did not believe her as Sister Michael found no evidence of secret feeding. When the council called upon Anna, the young girl insisted that she was surviving on manna from heaven. With no evidence, the watch resumed and Lib asked Anna’s mother to kiss her goodnight again, so as to ensure Anna would live. However, Anna’s mother insisted that even if Anna dies, both her children would be in heaven.
One day, when the family was out, Lib takes Anna away and tells her that she will wake up as a new girl called Nan. She then feeds Anna before returning to the house and setting it on fire.
There is no evidence to pin Lib for kidnapping Anna, but as the council find their efforts wasted, they send Lib home without any pay. Before Lib left Ireland however, she met Sister Michael who saw Lib taking Anna away on a horse the day of the fire. Sister Michael does not rat Lib out, and instead asks Lib to swear that Anna is in a better place.
Lib, Anna (now a healthy girl named Nan), and William then left Ireland as a family called Cheshire.
The Wonder - Movie Review
The Wonder starts off with an extremely intriguing premise- a girl who did not need food to survive. Even a doctor speculated that she could convert sunlight to food like a plant. This premise carries the film in the beginning as it gets the audience interested to know the answer to this mystery. Our main character Lib, also acted like a detective on a case rather than a nurse to keep the mystery fresh in the first half of the film.
The second half however, loses its magic in a moment as the film reveals its cards that Anna’s mother had been feeding Anna all along. We mainly see Anna deteriorate slowly and the chemistry between Lib and William is presumably sidelined to make way for the Lib-Anna relationship. But the pace did eventually pick up towards the end. The film is only 1 hour 50 min, sufficient to draw out a slow emotional mystery, but not too long until the film feels draggy. We get to see more layers to our main and side characters, on top of being treated to picturesque Irish sceneries.
One of the biggest driver of the film is definitely Florence Pugh’s performance. Lib is a complex character. She modern woman who believed in science, who also had her own past traumas that affect her on the daily. Pugh portrayed that balance of grit and compassion really well and gave a very nuanced performance throughout the film.