The fourth movie in my Adelaide Film Festival line-up is Wonderstruck. The drawcards of this movie for me are the director, Todd Haynes and the leading actress, Julianne Moore. I have only seen one other movie where they collaborated together – Far From Heaven, which I enjoyed a lot.
Wonderstruck is about Ben (Oakes Fegley) and Rose (Millicent Simmonds) – two children who long to find a place where they could belong. Both children are separated by around fifty years. Rose is a deaf daughter of an actress – Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore) in 1920s. Yearning for her mother’s love, Rose escapes from her house and travels to New York to see her. Ben lives in 1970s in Gunflint, Minnesota with her mum – and when she’s killed in an accident, he decides to track down his dad in New York. The only clue that he has is an old bookmark from a bookstore in New York. There is a thread linking Ben and Rose together, which is revealed towards the end of the movie.
Todd Haynes certainly has eye for details to make sure that the film feels like it was in that specific period. So, Far From Heaven looks and feels 1950s, and Wonderstruck feels immersed in the 1970s and the 1920s when either Rose’s or Ben’s story is presented. He is also a visual storyteller – through the scenes that he presents in the movie, without much dialogue at all. Julianne Moore‘s involvement is rather minor in this movie – and to me, the stars are the two children actors: Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds. Millicent Simmonds‘ look and mannerism in the movie are just perfect for the era, with her look of innocent bewilderment as she arrives in New York.
I enjoyed Wonderstruck – although in a true art-house manner, the ending is left hanging so we interpret the conclusion ourselves. The pacing is leisurely for the first part of the movie, and it’s a reminder that some stories require our patience. At the end of the day, it is a homage to childhood and the coming of age, to looking to the past for answers, and to truly find a place we can call home. Maybe the things that happen in our lives are somewhat delicately linked after all.