The Wonder Review - A Thought Provoking and Intriguing Character Driven Story

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The Wonder, a Netflix original film, brings to the screen a psychological thriller set in 1800s Ireland, that pits devout religious beliefs against medicine and science and mixes grief and sorrow with a belief in the ultimate sacrifice.

Beginning with a wide shot of a sound stage, the camara pans set constructed homes and aided by voice over, explains to the audience, the importance of stories. The camera settles on a dark corner, on what looks like the hull of a ship, and instantly we enter this story.

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A woman sits at the table over the next few frames. She is traveling some distance and is dropped off in the rain outside a café, from the set design and costumes we understand we are in the 1800s. Still unsure of our destination we enter the café with her.

And find we are in Ireland. In minutes we understand Lib Wright, played by Florence Pugh, is the English Nightingale nurse the towns elders, led by Dr McBrearty, played by Toby Jones, who wrote a medical phenomenon report which was published, and Father Thaddeus, played by Ciaran Hinds, were expecting.

Briefly we are given the history of the patient. A young girl, Anna O'Donnell, played by Kila Lord Cassidy, has stopped eating about four months ago and is miraculously alive and well.

Lib along with Sister Michael, played by Josie Walker, are hired to observe Anna. She is considered a miracle as she explains she survives only on "manna from heaven." Tourists and pilgrims' mass to meet her as they believe she has been gifted by God who has sustained her without food for months. Of course, a token for the poor is left when they leave.

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As the film diverges into two storylines, the miracle of sustenance from God and the child is secretly being fed and used by her family and the town as a tourist attraction, an English journalist, William Byrne, played by Tom Burke, arrives, and explains he is here to write the story of a child being starved for an unknown purpose and seeks Lib's assistance.

Lib, as a nurse, encourages a wellness program that has Anna walking outside on the Irish midlands during the day, where they meet William, as he attempts to find the truth. Lib finally decides to enforce a no contact rule, which stops her mother Rosaleen, played by Elaine Cassidy, from kissing her goodnight.

Anna's health soon deteriorates which is causes Lib great frustration. The two have become friends and Lib, whose own child survived for only three weeks, desperately wants to find someway to get past the mental block that is keeping Anna from eating and essentially from killing herself as a sacrifice.

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The Wonder mixes faith with common sense, with the belief of the miraculous with skewed doctrine, wrong thinking and personal power trips that manipulate the mind of the susceptible and more create a dominion, a dominance over the thoughts which in turn cause a belief that sacrifice, even to death, can gain penance for others. A soul can find the pathway to heaven through the sacrifice of one that remains.

Directed by Sebastián Lelio, the psychological thriller is inspired by the 19th century phenomenon of the "fasting girls" was adapted from the acclaimed novel by Emma Donoghue, the author of the academy award winning "Room."

The performances are honest and the devolution to the deeply profound religious beliefs are played with authenticity.

Thought-provoking and captivating, The Wonder opens for a limited theatrical run today, November 2, 2022, and debuts on Netflix November 16, 2022. See it.

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Country: Ireland.

Language English.

Runtime: 103minutes.

Release Date: November 2, 2022 (theatrical), November 16, 2022 (streaming).

Director: Sebastián Lelio.

Writer: Alice Birch and Sebastián Lelio, based on the novel by Emma Donoghue.

Cast: Florence Pugh, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Tom Burke, Niamh Algar, Elaine Cassidy, Toby Jones, David Wilmot, Brían F. O'Byrne, Josie Walker, and Caolan Byrne.

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