It’s quite a challenge giving a quick sketch of a film narrative that is even more complex and subtle than a Dostoyevsky novel. But I think it’s important to alert as many thoughtful readers and viewers as possible to Terrence Malick’s latest film (and lifetime reflection), To the Wonder, which first appeared at the Venice Film Festival last September, but in fact did not get circulating until a month ago.
When you’re intent on life-changing territory. it’s so tempting to become precious and exclusive.
An American man and a French woman meet during his awesome vacation in France, the most romantic place in the world. He brings her back home to Oklahoma, where she tries hard to be excited and he tries hard to continue believing she’s cool. Their efforts do not meet with success. Then he meets a local woman who could help him grow up, but he decides (almost imperceptibly—a quietness characteristic of the whole film, and leaving it very prone to misunderstanding) that she’s not cool enough.
The French delicacy returns. She ends up in an EconoLodge with a local repairman who has a spider web tattoo on his chest. Before boarding the plane home for the final time, she tells him, “I want to keep your name,” a factor far less onerous for her than his concrete presence, and hers for him.
A Latino priest (as displaced as she is), who has lost all sense of direction (as with them, the old ways viscerally known to be not enough), can still rattle off a blueprint that could actually lead somewhere new. “You feel your love has died. It perhaps is waiting to be transformed into something higher…”