IN HIS 70TH YEAR, Malick must be feeling time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near. Which is why we’ve had to wait a mere 19 months for his sixth film rather than the customary decade or more. While clearly the work of the director of Days of Heaven, the pastoral tragedy that remains his masterpiece, To the Wonder is a rambling disappointment with wonderful moments, mostly visual.
The title refers to “the wonder of the western world”, an epithet long attached to Mont-Saint-Michel, the magnificent medieval abbey on the Normandy coast, a great symbol of faith, object of pilgrimage and example of sublime architecture. The film begins and ends there, and among its themes are the contrast between the old world and the new, what man creates and what he spoils.
It’s also about faith and love as experienced by an American writer (Ben Affleck) and a single mother from eastern Europe (Olga Kurylenko) whom he brings with her 10-year-old daughter from France to his native American southwest.