Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
TIFF ’12 - TO THE WONDER
Director Terrence Malick’s follow up to The Tree Of Life.
Most will say, or have already said, that To The Wonder is like Tree Of Life without a plot .. or dialogue ( yes, there was dialogue in Tree Of Life ). If you hated The Tree Of Life, you’ll probably peel your own skin off watching To The Wonder.
Even those who loved, liked, or even appreciated Tree Of Life are not lining up behind To The Wonder. ‘He Rushed It’ ( only spent 2 years editing ), ‘An Emotionless film about Emotion’, and my favourite review .. “If I were making a parody of a Terrence Malick movie, I’d make his new film, To The Wonder”
I loved it.
I broke my own rule for both Tree Of Life and To The Wonder, reading up on the films before seeing them. Even if someone describes the entire film in minute detail, it couldn’t be considered a Spoiler. It’s just not possible with Malick films. Their impact is the visual and emotional impression on each individual viewer. My mindset going in is to draw a blank .. simply watch the screen without trying to analyze or even comprehend. Let it wash over me. I must sound pretty much like a pompous dick by now, and you’re going ‘Aha! That’s why you like the Pompous films by this Dick!’ Maybe.
One of the things I read about To The Wonder in cast interviews after the Venice Film Festival was that it was more akin to how we remember things. Particularly with relation to past loves. The memories are coloured, and often repeating as we see the same things with slightly different perspectives. They are more about the feelings than they are about the exact visuals. This is how I went in, and this is exactly what I felt. I had no expectations of any traditional filmmaking style .. even styles from Malick’s past works. It worked for me. I felt it. I was moved. I remember a scene from Tree Of Life where Young Jack is walking home from school, following a girl, but behind about two dozen paces. That scene stirred a memory in me like a bolt of lightning. I suddenly ‘felt’ that same feeling I did 45 odd years before. It rang true. It was much the same for me with the images and memories in To The Wonder. It touched feelings that I hadn’t recalled in years . That is why I loved it.
Others in my party, not so much. Even my Wife and Son, who are big Malick fans. Even legions of other Malick fans. Are they wrong? No, of course not. Am I wrong? I don’t think so. Can you be wrong? What is this love that loves us? Father, if God is all powerful, can God make a rock so heavy that he himself can’t lift it? ;)