DVD Release Date: August 6, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: April 12, 2013 (NY/LA), on iTunes and On Demand. Expands nationwide throughout April
Rating: R (for some sexuality/nudity)
Genre: Drama
Run Time: 112 min
Director: Terrence Malick
Cast: Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko, Javier Bardem, Rachel McAdams

"Your intellect may be confused, but your emotions never lie to you." – the late Roger Ebert, on judging a film’s value.

Ebert’s axiom is a great standard, and one that people would do well to follow when attempting to appreciate films that challenge, which are abstract, and are often too quickly dismissed. It's especially true for movies by Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life, The Thin Red Line). His latest is no different, and may even be his most quintessential (for better and worse).

To The Wonder wrestles with Love itself – not as a concept or idea but as an entity. It doesn’t muse about love but rather to it. The title initially seems to imply a journey toward some enlightened state of being, but by film’s end it reads more like the top of a letter addressed to The Being. 

"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." – Ephesians 5:25 

Early on a priest reads this verse from the pulpit, but rather casually. Malick does not bring any particular emphasis to the reference other than it being audible, but in hindsight its citation comes to serve as a thesis statement from which to discern what he’s really up to here. To The Wonder is a film about love, as told by brides.

These brides are represented in various forms and at differing stages. One begins in courtship, following a divorce, and yearns for union – one that will finally be true and lasting. Another bride shares a similar history, though the details are different. One eventually remarries. The third is a priest who, as a member of the church and follower of Jesus, is of the Bride of Christ.

Each of these brides loves their bridegrooms but also struggle to understand them ("What is this love that loves us? That comes from nowhere. From all around"). As a consequence, intimacy is often elusive despite the deep mutual longing for it. Malick’s sympathies clearly lie with the brides. Their struggles, doubts, and fears are his, as is their unwillingness to completely reject love even as temptations arise to do so.

The film opens in France where Neil (Ben Affleck, Argo), an American, falls for Marina (Olga Kurylenko, Quantum of Solace), a Ukrainian divorcee living in Paris with her 10-year-old daughter. Their love is joyful, magical, undeniable. They want to spend their lives together, so she follows him back to his native rural Oklahoma.

The bliss slowly gives way to tensions, ones difficult to articulate. They seem to rise not from circumstance but rather the kind of intangible differences of which their very existence is more confusing than clarifying. The presence of Jane (Rachel McAdams, The Vow), a woman from Neil’s past (also a divorcee), further clouds feelings and desires that once seemed not just clear but pure.