The Wonder on Netflix is set in 1862 and follows an English nurse named Elizabeth “Lib” Wright (Florence Pugh) as she is summoned to a remote village in Ireland. She is tasked with watching a local girl, who claims to have not eaten food in four months. As Lib investigates the situation, dark secrets come to light.
The Wonder opens with Elizabeth “Lib” Wright, who is an English Nightingale Nurse, heading to a remote village in 1862 Ireland. She served in the Crimean War but is now tasked with the odd job of observing a local girl named Anna O’Donnell.
Her family states that she hasn’t eaten in four months and considers her to be a miracle. Anna expresses that she survives on mana from heaven.
Lib is told to observe the girl for two weeks by a local council and present her findings. A skeptical Lib tries to get to the bottom of the mystery and comes across a dark secret related to Anna’s deceased brother.
Florence Pugh delivers a career best performance as nurse Lib Wright. Her character is perfectly flawed. She uses trauma of losing a child to find ways to save Anna, eventually overcoming her grief.
Lib is a difficult character to play as she traverse through the complications of human life and deep rooted beliefs, that challenge her mindset.
However, Pugh rises up to the occasion and does justice to the role. She also expertly swings between her stoic and vulnerable moments, giving a very layered yet relatable performance.
Kíla Lord Cassidy plays Anna O’Donnell and is a standout as well. She is brilliant as the miracle girl who has a lot to hide. Cassidy succeeds to bring out the conflict within Anna as her will to live fights with her brainwashed mind, blaming herself for her brother’ death.
Her performance is nuanced and she doesn’t let anything slip until the plot is ready for it to be revealed.
There is not a single bad performance in the film. The supporting cast including Tom Burke, Elaine Cassidy, Niamh Algar, Caolán Byrne, Toby Jones, and Ciarán Hinds, are all stellar in their respective roles.
The Wonder picks up the fasting girl phenomenon from Victorian times and curates a wonderfully dark yet heartfelt narrative around it. Director Sebastián Lelio does well to respect all aspects of the story.
The film presents the “Religion vs. Science” debate in a setting that is perfect for it. However, it doesn’t try to defy one side while uplifting the other. However, it does make you think deeply about dangerous beliefs, suppression, incest, trauma, grief, and healing.
The writers should be commended for that. The characters are also fleshed out just enough that they are relevant to the plot.
The cinematography, sound design and colour grading add a beautifully haunting touch to the whole experience. There is always an underlying sense of eeriness that takes the immersion up a notch.
There isn’t much to mention in this section except a few nitpicks. Due to its setting, the film often suffers from lighting issues. Some scenes are extremely dark and become difficult to follow.
The pacing is a little inconsistent at times. Although the film is extremely engaging, there are slow pockets that might feel slightly boring.
The Wonder is an absolute triumph of a film. It features a beautiful story, tackles some important issues and is brimming with excellent performances. Even people who do not like dramas will find this film entertaining.