If Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” was too much the dialogue-driven, story-heavy film for your liking, you’ll probably be more in the mood for his latest, “To the Wonder,” which features Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko in its cast.
I hesitate to say that it stars them because their performances aren’t really the focus of the movie. They are in the movie and it swirls around them – and ultimately, if there is a story, it’s theirs. Yet, given the (usual) amount of time Malick spends focusing on the environment around the characters, they seem to be almost beside the point.
While this film also happens to be virtually dialogue-free, it shouldn’t be considered a silent film, like “The Artist.” The characters do talk to each other; we just don’t hear much of it. Indeed, there is no live sound during a scene in which Affleck and Kurylenko scream at each other in the midst of a fight that ultimately sends Kurylenko scurrying back to Paris from the dismally suburban Oklahoma landscape he’s brought her to. We see the argument but never hear it.
So let me say this about “To the Wonder”: Malick doesn’t need dialogue to convey the emotional rollercoaster on which Affleck and Kurylenko find themselves. Malick has made an ephemeral and virtually wordless film about the ephemeral and virtually wordless qualities of human interconnectivity. It’s boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl (after first letting the failed relationship spark a doomed rebound). None of those words – or very many others – are ever spoken.
Affleck is Ned and Kurylenko is Marina, though you have to wait for the final credits to learn their actual names. There’s never a “Hey, Ned” or “Yes, Marina?” moment. As I said, dialogue is not the point.
Instead, as he has done throughout his career, Malick uses (sparingly) a voiceover narrator to talk, if only impressionistically, about what you’re seeing on screen.
This review continues on my website.