Thursday, December 3, 2015

A girl gives 'The Wonders' its heart

The Wonders, a Cannes favorite, turns out to be an odd duck of a movie that focuses on a mixed Italian-German family living near Tuscany. Twelve-year-old Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu) anchors what can be viewed as a slightly jumbled coming-of-age tale. Director Alice Rohrwacher does her best work when she stays close to Gelsomina's world. Bickering between Gelsomina and her younger sister (Agnese Graziani) is well observed, and Gelsomina tends to the family's bee-keeping operation with competent assurance. The family, which includes two other daughters, runs a foundering honey-making business. Despite the objections of Gelsomina's staunch father (Sam Louwyck), Gelsomina secretly enters a reality show contest that's offering prize money. The show is hosted by the glamorous Milly Catena (Monica Belluccii), who serves the story as a kind of fairy godmother. Gelsomina's answer to financial distress is fanciful. Dad's answer is bluntly pragmatic. To augment funds, he takes in a troubled child (Luis Hulica Logrono), a silent German delinquent who earns the father's praise. The Wonders includes offbeat and even bizarre touches (the arrival of a camel on the family property, for example), but it's Gelsomina's attempt to define a life apart from her father's implacable ways that holds the film together. The Wonders takes place in less than gorgeous part of Italy, immediately setting it against the grain of expectation. The film was shot in terrain between Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, perhaps indicative of the fact that this unusual family doesn't quite belong anywhere.

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