Written and Directed by Alice Rohrwacher / Starring Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck and Monica Bellucci
Wolfgang: Certain things can’t be bought.
It’s not often a film can capture the essence of rustic family life with such seeming ease. That said, filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher (CORPO CELESTE) draws on her own Italian countryside upbringing to breathe life into THE WONDERS, the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Grand Prix winner.
Newcomer Maria Alexandra Lungu is Gelsomina, 12 years of age and the eldest of four daughters. Hers is a beekeeping family who live a somewhat chaotic life in a quiet rural setting. Patriarch Wolfgang (played by Sam Louwyck, BULLHEAD) is more than a little odd, but despite his temper flares, he genuinely loves his family and harbours a particular soft spot for Gelsomina who will one day take over the family business.
“One day” might as well be the present, as it is essentially Gelsomina who runs the day-to-day operations of both the family and the business. Mature far beyond her young age, she wrestles between the responsibilities incurred by virtue of her birth order and the curiosities and interests of any pre-teen girl. Even her mother Angelica (played by the filmmaker’s sister, Alba Rohrwacher) often defers to her authority, making for one very strange family dynamic.
Life becomes a bit more interesting for Gelsomina and her sisters when dazzling television host Milly Catena (Monica Bellucci, IRREVERSIBLE) and her production crew appear, on the hunt for local farmers to enlist in a reality show competition entitled “Countryside Wonders”. Could this opportunity provide the solution to the family’s financial troubles and Gelsomina’s boredom?
What’s perhaps most striking about THE WONDERS is how natural both the story and its characters feel. From the opening scene, the audience is given a clear glimpse into the various personalities of each of the family members, from the mother to the youngest daughter. The actors, even the unseasoned ones, are so adept at inhabiting their respective characters that one might think this film were a documentary as opposed to a drama. The very ordinary events of a rather mundane life are relayed with such a rich simplicity as to awaken a genuine interest in this average family and the passion they have for their craft.