DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
You'll always divide your audience when you try to give an artistic interpretation of something as mundane as love. There will be those that consider it a pretentious and pompous snooze fest and there will be those that will revel in its beauty and marvel at the craft involved in creating this piece of art. No one is right or wrong there, but I, fortunately, found myself to be part of the latter category.
If I were criticizing it I would be able to avoid rambling in superlatives, but I can't. Malick has once again managed to tune his film to my sensibilities and tastes perfectly. Apart from the stunning cinematography, the beautiful score and wonderfully understated performances there isn't that much to objectively quantify. To the Wonder is a work that is personal and therefore depends on its viewers to find any kind of connection to it.
This is perhaps Malick's simplest film. He gives us an exploration of all facets of love, from he secular to the divine, and sketches scenes of a life that are familiar and relatable. It is in how he presents these sketches that Mailick distinguishes himself and makes this a seemingly narrative free collection of scenes. Even though in the end the line that connects all the dots is easily found, following that line is not what it's about here.
This is a meditation, a representation of memories that are associated with that one universal emotion us humans all have, love. Malick is a master in appealing to all senses and here he, literally, makes his most sensual film yet. His films relate to mainstream cinema like poetry relates to proze. To the Wonder is uncompromising in its shape and relies on the imagery it manages to evoke to convey the themes it tries to explore. I found myself to be a willing recipient and eased into this film's flow with the greatest of ease.
Telling a love story, depicting relationships, they are all fraught with danger and taking the actual 'plot' at face value, it tells us nothing new. Go looking for that here and you'll leave unsatisfied and annoyed. Like with the Tree of Life, it's Malick's voice that makes it work for me, managing to stir my emotions and resonate his ideas with me with his visual prowess and interpretative, almost metaphysical imagery.
I am fully aware that Malick always turns me into an even bigger pompous dick than I usually am, but while watching this I kept thinking of a poem I read when I was studying English a million years ago. Like To the Wonder, it is an idiosyncratic exploration of love that, for me, covers all the bases with resounding beauty.
How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43) by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.