Netflix’s The Wonder is a haunting and intriguing tale that delves into the dangers of religious zealots. Check out the details in my parents guide movie review.
The Wonder drops in theaters tomorrow, November 4th, and comes to Netflix’s streaming service on November 16th. The film is based on the 2016 novel of the same name, written by Emma Donoghue, who is best known for Room. Set in 1860s Ireland and starring Florence Pugh and Kila Lord Cassidy, this haunting tale is intriguing as well as taking shocking turns. Check out the details in my parents guide movie review.
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The Wonder Parents Guide
In The Wonder: 1862, 13 years after the Great Famine. An English Nightingale Nurse Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) is called to the Irish Midlands by a devout community to conduct a 15-day examination over one of their own. Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy) is an 11-year-old girl who claims not to have eaten for four months, surviving miraculously on “manna from heaven”. As Anna’s health rapidly deteriorates, Lib is determined to unearth the truth, challenging the faith of a community that would prefer to stay believing.
The Wonder Age Appropriate Parents Guide
Let’s take a look at what parents need to know before letting their kids watch The Wonder.
Language: The Wonder contains some profanity used infrequently throughout the film. Lookout words include: f*ck and phrases such as “Jesus Christ.”
Mature Content: The film is based on a story about a fasting girl who is dying. There are difficult and gory scenes that include a character spitting out a bloody tooth, pricking a finger to eat blood, and a tube shoved down a character’s throat in an attempt to force feed. There is a scene that includes two characters engaging in sexual intercourse, but no nudity is shown, and discussions of incest. There is discussion of a son who has passed away, which may be triggering for some viewers. Characters are shown taking opium.
The best thing about The Wonder are the performances given by Florence Pugh and Kila Lord Cassidy. Pugh plays Lib, a nurse hired to watch Anna (Cassidy), who is on a self-imposed fast that has lasted over four months. Both actresses deliver powerful performances, especially Pugh, who gives depth and emotion to the character, revealing a sense of pain and trauma in her eyes as she struggles to help the little girl against the duties of her “job.” The duo has a natural chemistry and ease about them; they perfectly match each other’s intensity and have a strong presence on screen.
While The Wonder was written by Emma Donoghue, the story is inspired by the actual “fasting girls” of the Victorian era. Donoghue, who is known for her work on Room, is masterful at character development in a limited setting, as seen in that film and in this one, which is primarily set in Anna’s bedroom and focuses on the interaction between the two women. This allows viewers to connect with the characters without outside distractions, and emotionally invest in their welfare. This is particularly important in this tale, which has a character-driven plot.
The Wonder leaves audiences with a conflict between science and religion. While the story is set in 1862, this theme of religion over science is as true today as it was centuries ago, as stories have popped up in the media of parents who choose prayer and/or fake news over facts and modern medicine, to the detriment and often the demise of their children. As always, when given a hint of doubt or a smidgen of uncertainty, people will choose what they want to believe. Chance favors the prepared (learned) mind, but even skeptics have reasons for their beliefs. The question of whether this is divine intervention or merely a sham is what is at stake here, and watching The Wonder in hopes of getting that answer is where the magic lies for this film. Deftly crafted by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Sebastián Leilo, this film is a remarkable tale worthy of any adult audience’s interest.