I reviewed To the Wonder here for Critic’s Notebook; at last the chance to use a Cramps reference carbon-dated to 1976.
The visual language in To the Wonder, as in Tree of Life for that matter, is so comfortable and lacking in radicalism that the films seem blithely, happily conservative. Both films are in the poetry business and I’m all for that – it beats being in the cartooning business – but the verse is traditional and rhymes flawlessly. A long way from abstract and teetering on the brink of self-parody, these extended sonnets are built from images of nature and humanity and grasp for the sublime. But the sublime never comes within reach, barring those miraculous shots of Jessica Chastain floating in mid-air in Tree of Life. Something about this approach actively stops the films from lifting off the ground in a similar fashion, resulting in two of the most beautiful films ever to sit dispassionately on the floor. Could the un-magic ingredient be, whisper it, just good old-fashioned pedantry?