Director: Sebastián Lelio Run Time: 108 min. Format: DCP Release Year: 2022
Starring: Elaine Cassidy, Florence Pugh, Kíla Lord Cassidy, Niamh Algar, Tom Burke
Chilean director Sebastián Lelio has made a significant contribution to cinema through his stories of female characters—the sort of women who rarely find their lives reflected on screen—notably GLORIA, GLORIA BELL, DISOBEDIENCE (IFFBoston 2018), and the Oscar-winning A FANTASTIC WOMAN. His latest work, THE WONDER, introduces us to yet another formidable woman and frames the film by asking the viewer to consider the power of stories—those that society pushes upon us and those that we create about ourselves.
Lib Wright (Florence Pugh), a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, arrives in the Irish Midlands hired for an unusual task: to observe an 11-year-old girl named Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy), who has reportedly not eaten a morsel for four months. As religious tourists descend on the village, the town council wants answers and so hires Lib, a medical professional, along with a nun, to watch the child and determine the root cause of the phenomenon. Disturbed by the pious fervour hampering her investigation, and pestered for inside information by William Byrne (Tom Burke), an ambitious journalist for a London paper, Lib realizes that extraordinary measures must be taken to save Anna from an increasingly volatile situation.
The film, which is based on the powerful novel by Irish-Canadian writer Emma Donoghue (whose screenplay for ROOM, IFFBoston Screening Series 2015, was nominated for an Oscar), boasts an exceptional script by Alice Birch (LADY MACBETH, MOTHERING SUNDAY) and is deftly photographed by Ari Wegner (THE POWER OF THE DOG). Rich in substance and character exploration, while driven by a commanding performance from Pugh, THE WONDER is a story of science versus faith that explores whether one woman can heal by utilizing both.
—Jane Schoettle, Toronto International Film Festival guide