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THE WONDER (2022, GBR) – 8/10


From the very beginning, there is something strange about the mystery drama set in the Irish countryside in 1862. Immediately in the opening scene, the Chilean Sebastian Lelio, who brought his country the first Oscar a few years ago with “A Fantastic Woman”, takes us to a film studio while the narrator says that we may be watching a film and are aware that it is fiction, but that is why the characters believe in their existence and its behavior. The modern film set suddenly turns into a historical drama set in that poor, muddy, miserable and hungry rural Ireland where the English nurse Elizabeth Wright (Florence Pugh) is headed. She served during the Crimean War, and in the meantime she was left without her husband and small child. Her task in Ireland is to observe the 11-year-old girl Anna O’Donnell, whose family claims that the little girl has not eaten for four months, and is still completely healthy.

The local community is already ready to declare the girl a saint, and what happens to her a miracle, but the English nurse is skeptical from the very beginning, since such a thing is impossible. She and a nun were given the task of monitoring what the girl was doing, taking notes and after a while reporting to a council made up of the local doctor, the village pastor, the village elder and the landowner on whose land Anna’s family lives. Elizabeth is sure that what is claimed cannot be true, and this dark, stylized combination of drama and thriller, which in its atmosphere is somewhat reminiscent of “The Exorcist”, explores the conflict between facts and science on the one hand and blind belief and religion on the other.

And that in a period when the role of the other was dominant and when people, for one reason or another, liked to ascribe everything to the supernatural and proclaim it as a miracle. This slow-moving and enigmatic mystery drama could also be called a small textbook on how saints and saints were created. But the problem is that to become a saint one usually has to die a painful death, and Elizabeth doesn’t want that to happen to Anna and is aware that everyone is wishing for a miracle even though it’s obviously something else. Of course, behind everything there is something dark and wicked, and that’s exactly the mood of this quality period drama, as well as Matthew Herbert’s music. Given her own life story and personal tragedies that she herself has gone through, Elizabeth does not want to let the little girl end because of fanaticism and someone else’s crazy ideas.

By the way, during the Victorian era in Great Britain, the phenomenon of girls fasting was not so rare, and every now and then there were cases like this in which pre-adolescent girls endured a long period without food. It is the film that brilliantly portrays that still primitive, dull world dominated by religion and blind belief. Pugh is also great as a young woman who will understand relatively quickly what is really going on and who will become increasingly angry and desperate because she cannot change anything. When she refuses to follow the given narrative, it won’t take long to declare her unprofessional, ignorant, and the fact that she is an Englishwoman who does not wish Ireland well will begin to be emphasized.