The Wonders review: trippy hippie dippy family flickie

This off-the-wall French comedy has charm but not much plot momentum

The Wonders/Le Meraviglie
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Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Cert: Club
Genre: Drama
Starring: Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Alba Rohrwacher
Running Time: 18 hrs 30 mins

The Wonders was not named for the enquiry: I wonder if anything is going to happen in this film? But it could have been. That's not to say that Alice Rohrwacher's sophomore feature, a lesser entry at last year's Cannes, is entirely devoid of merit or charm.

Based on the director’s own neo-hippie upbringing, the film is jollied along by teenager Maria Alexandra Lungu’s central turn as Gelsomina, the pathologically responsible eldest of four children growing up on a ramshackle Italian bee farm. As the spiritual heir to her parent’s off-the-grid existence, Gelsomina spends much of her time chastising her siblings for slacking, for crying about injuries and even for requiring the lavatory.

As The Wonders opens, Gelsomina's father is doing his best Basil Fawlty as he rages against hunters encroaching on his land. It is typical of the film that we don't return to that conflict or any other.

Gelsomina's Ogilvian devotion to duty only intensifies with the arrival of Countryside Wonders, a Felliniesque game show seeking the region's most traditional family. (The show is fronted by Monica Bellucci: dress code Mermaid-Valkyre-Snow-Maiden fantasia fabulous.) Unhappily, Gelsomina's purist father Wolfgang has little time for such frivolities or for outsiders.


Then another potential disruption: the arrival of Martin (Luis Huilca Logrono), a German juvenile in a delinquent rehab programme, threatens rivalry, though even this complication seems to melt away in Helene Louvart’s wistful cinematography.

Rohrwacher’s recreation of the monotonous rhythms of low-tech farm life is every bit as attentive and diligent as the film’s heroine. But the director’s impressionistic approach to narrative does get a little frustrating.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic