FilmApe’s review published on Letterboxd:
A great story teller needs much more than just a great story. Among many things, a great story teller needs to know when to pause, how to hold their body, and when to make eye contact with their audience. The greatest of great storytellers can take any story, including the most boring, and present it in a way that would be enthralling and fascinating. Thus, in the end the story is truly inconsequential, as how a story is told is everything. It seems obvious to say, but Terrence Malick completely understand what you need to be the greatest of great storytellers.
To the Wonder is pretty much devoid of a conventional narrative. But, who needs a narrative anyway? I mean, hasn't every story already been told dozens, if not hundreds of times? I'm confident that everyone reading this is familiar with the romance narrative, just simply from having been alive in this world. Two people fall in love, their happy for a while, then their sad, and then the two people either live happily ever after, or they don't. Sure there are always some different/unique spices thrown into this narrative in order to make it more palatable, but in the end most romance narratives are all the same. Thus, I don't need someone holding my hand and guiding me through something that I already know all about. No, I want someone who presents a familiar narrative in a way that makes me considers things I hadn't before, and even be confused at times.
Terrence Malick has made To the Wonder his least accessible film. There are barely any scenes involving characters talking with each other, and the few conversation scenes that are in the film, we generally only see and hear one side of the conversation. This isn't a problem, because Malick just uses camera movements, music, editing, actors body language, to tell the audience what is happening in his story. Since we are already familiar with the classic romantic narrative, we just fill in the gaps that Malick doesn't deem necessary to reiterate, and thus we can keep up with his story rather easily. Thus allowing the opportunity to ponder the contents of the story, rather than the story itself.
And what are the contents of Malick's story To the Wonder? Well, its a film all about love. The difficulties of love, the joy of love, the different types of love, Malick explores the concept of love thoroughly in the. In a way this film feels like a companion to The Tree of Life, in that the ideas in this film seem like they easily fit along side Malick's musings from his previous film. I'm thinking that If Malick keeps his film output up, we pretty much will be able to learn everything we need to know about life simply from his films. That would possibly be the greatest academic curriculum ever.
In summation, this is a Terrence Malick film, so I didn't feel much of a need to reiterate the same praise that all of his films get. The visuals are breathtaking of course, and with future patron saint of cinematography Emmanuel Lubezki working his magic, I would expect nothing less. As well, all the performances are beautiful and completely honest, which has been one of the things of note in all Malick's films. Yes, Terrence Malick is truly a master storyteller, and a master filmmaker, who doesn't conform to any narrative. He makes narrative conform to him.