I watched To the Wonder for Critic’s Notebook; at last the chance to use a Cramps reference carbon-dated to 1976.
You could argue that the new-model Terrence Malick’s visual style, a new blast of which arrives in To the Wonder, is so comfortably poetic and lacking in radicalism that the film can seem blithely, happily conservative. But you might not sound convincing in the attempt, since Malick’s instinctive choice to bet the house on romanticism rather than realism is one of the more radical bits of self-sufficient stubbornness likely to wash up in your average Showcase, as well as a reasonable evolution of the films he used to make in the old days. To The Wonder is theological and dry, two or three crises of faith jammed in a very confined space, while Tree of Life was both irrational and scientific, summed up by the ineffable sight of Jessica Chastain spontaneously levitating into the air. The new film is a tougher, or at least flatter, watch; but Malick’s experiment rolls on.