THE WONDERS (Italy/Switzerland/Germany/Club/110mins)
Directed by Alice Rohrwacher. Starring Alba Rohrwacher, Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Sabine Timoteo, Agnese Graziani, Monica Bellucci, Andre Hennicke, Eva Lea Pace Morrow, Maris Stella Morris, Luis Huilca.
THE PLOT: Like so much traditional Tuscan living, the family of teenager Gelsomina (Lungu) are struggling to keep food on the table. Their main source of income is the family apiary, run by the man of the house, Wolfgang (Louwyck), with his faithful assistant, Gelsomina, always by his side. The two have a special bond, but their relationship becomes strained when Gelsomina secretly enters the family business into a TV talent show, Countryside Wonders – hosted by the beautiful Milly (Belucci). Could fame somehow save the family home…?
THE VERDICT: There’s much to ponder in Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher’s deceptively footloose and fancy free feature, from country living to family affairs, from barely living off the land to the faux philanthopy of the TV camera. That Rohrwacher (who made her debut with 2011’s CORPO CELESTE/HEAVENLY BODY) makes it all seem haphazard and incidental makes The Wonders all the more wonderful. There’s nothing laboured here, nothing burdened by pop video exclamation marks. You can take it all as fly-on-the-wall, or you can dig deeper, and see the world’s state-of-play.
The cast are wonderful, and the script a delight, but it’s Helene Louvart’s stunning cinematography that truly seduces here.
RATING: 4/5
Review by Paul Byrne

The Wonders
Review by Paul Byrne
4.0A Delight
  • filmbuff2011

    Nominated for the Palme d’Or and winning for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, The Wonders is a sweet, if slightly oddball, Italian family drama. Teenager Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lunghu) is the eldest of five daughters in rural Italy. Her family business is that of beekeeping and producing their own brand of honey. Gelsomina and her sisters don’t just help out on the farm though – they pretty much run the business too while their parents try to keep up with them. A chance encounter with glamourous TV presenter Milly (Monica Bellucci) gives Gelsomina an idea. She could enter her family in Milly’s TV show, which is running a competition to find the best of local produce. In order to do that, she’ll have to get her chaotic family in order first… The second feature from Italian director Alice Rohrwacher is charming in its own way but also idiosyncratic enough to set it apart from other Italian family dramas (e.g. the films of Nanni Moretti). The bees themselves are metaphors for the family – workers busy trying to set themselves apart from everyone else while conforming to expectations. Milly’s slightly cheesy TV show doesn’t come into play until towards the end, leaving Rohrwacher plenty of time to develop characters and awkward situations. Lunghu and the other children in the film are all excellent, giving very natural and unshowy performances. But for all the humourous scenes, there are also darker scenes that don’t entirely sit well with the rest of the story. The ending is a bit of a head-scratcher as well. Go see it for the wonderful child performances, though it may be an acquired taste overall. ***