To the Wonder Terrence Malick

To the Wonder Terrence Malick
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Life, like love and passion, is brief, frustrating, beautiful and filled with an abundance of lessons, contradictions and inner-ambivalence. What does it mean to take risks and fail or open up emotionally only to be hurt? Does it really teach us a valuable lesson that aids in personal complexity and understanding or does it just build up our defences while killing our ire?

Terrence Malick's latest visually poetic take on the fleeting moments of life posits questions about the nature of love and connection, relating our quest for companionship to the concept of universal love and religious faith, noting how difficult it is to remain optimistic and full of compassion when people repeatedly let, or tear, you down.

Here, the solemn, occasionally whispered voiceover comes from Marina (Olga Kurylenko), a European woman that moves herself and her daughter from France to North America to be with the commitment-phobic, sweet but stoic Neil (Ben Affleck). Without addressing the plot in a traditional sense, sticking to his swooping, circular, observant style, we pick up on the feeling of their relationship from indirect voiceovers and occasional glances and body language.

Initially, Marina is delighted with her new home, jumping on the bed and running through fields, playing lovers' games with Neil, but eventually his eyes turn to other women and her heart starts to flood with self-doubt and the pain of feeling less desirable to the one she trusts.

This is where religious farm girl Jane (Rachel McAdams) steps in, taking charge of the voiceover for some time, offering a different perspective on the same theme. And making the concept of love bigger than mere coupling is the occasional diversion to the conflicted Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), whose love of God and man wavers when faced daily with the lowest class of people.

Following characters walking into light and often enjoying nature, strolling barefoot on the beach or rolling around on their front lawn, Malick captures the small, forgotten moments of pleasure and disappointment in life. These are moments that may define us, but aren't dramatic enough to justify comment, which is part of the wonder of what this introspective director is able to do.

Still, there is something less than grandiose about this particular outing that leaves it feeling like a lesser companion piece to the superlative The Tree of Life. (VVS)