Film genius to miss the mark. Case in point: Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, a beautifully empty exercise that – so glacial is the pace – makes Malick’s Tree of Life look like G.I. Joe: Retaliation. As ever, you can’t accuse Malick of being plot-heavy. We spot lovers Neil (Ben Affleck) and Marina (Olga Kurylenko) walking the Normandy beach near the monastery of Mont St. Michel. “Love makes us one,” she says.
Not exactly. When Neil and Marina, a Ukrainian divorcee who’s made her life in Paris, move into Neil’s home in Oklahoma, Marina’s 10-year-old daughter, Tatiana (Tatiana Chiline), moves in with them. All goes well until it doesn’t. Neil is occupied as an environmental inspector. Marina befriends Father Quintana (Javier Bardem), a Catholic priest losing touch with his faith. When Marina returns to Paris, Neil reconnects with Jane (Rachel McAdams), a former love. Everyone seems trapped in a bubble of malaise as they wander landscapes shot as wonders of light and shadow by the gifted Emmanuel Lubezki. Malick keeps pushing Affleck to the corner of the frame, as if he’s more interested in the women. I found it difficult to maintain interest in anyone. If there’s such a thing as a feather that weighs a ton, it’s To the Wonder.