REVIEW: To the Wonder

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To the Wonder
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Written by: Terrence Malick (screenplay)
Starring: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem

To the Wonder is the quickest turn-around of the legendary auteur Terrence Malick’s career, coming out a little less than two years after 2011’s The Tree of Life.  For a director who famously took 20 years after 1978’s Days of Heaven to resurface, that is quite a 180.  This is also significant when examining this latest film because, though it contains moments as transcendent and beautiful as anything he’s ever done, those moments are trapped inside many less significant ones.  It doesn’t feel fully formed, and though it’s by no means lazy or even bad, several parts feel out of place and sloppy.

Malick’s camera, aided by the infinitely gifted cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, washes over any landscape with lightness and grace, tilting, panning and maneuvering around endlessly twirling and writhing bodies.  He speaks a language of pure cinema, enhancing each gesture and glance with a swell of music and a matching camera movement, and then using his trademark narration to an almost entirely expressionistic effect.

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REVIEW: Higher Ground

Higher Ground
Directed by: Vera Farmiga
Written by: Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe (screenplay), Carolyn S. Briggs (novel)
Starring: Vera Farmiga, Joshua Leonard, John Hawkes and Taissa Farmiga

Vera Farmiga often has such a calming presence on a movie, which makes those times when emotions pour out of her all the more affecting.  In Higher Ground, she brings that talent not only as the movie’s star but as its director.  It is the story of the devout Christian woman Corinne and her lifelong grappling with faith.

Adapted by Carolyn S. Briggs and Tim Metcalfe from Briggs’ book This Dark World, Higher Ground transcends preaching to either side of the issue because nobody involved in its construction is laying judgment.  Corinne may be seen as a rebel by her congregation when she asks probing questions about the teachings of the Bible, but to an outsider in the audience they seem perfectly fine.

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