Bees are such tiny, seemingly inconsequential creatures, yet milligram for milligram, they affect the landscape in profound ways. You could say the same about small, delicate movies like Italian filmmaker Alice Rohrwacher's 2014 Cannes Grand Prix winner The Wonders, which tells the story of a hippie beekeeper family in the remote Tuscan countryside. This crew of six — mother, father, and four young girls — lives in a crumbling old house lacking certain essentials, like a door separating the kids' bedroom from the bathroom. Their honey-processing machinery, largely minded by the family's eldest daughter, adolescent Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), is reasonably efficient but definitely old-school. When the family gets a chance to participate in a reality-TV competition showcasing the products of local farmers, Gelsomina — partly dazzled by the show's beguiling host, played by Monica Bellucci in a glorious, white, fan-shaped headdress and partly just yearning for some taste of the outside world — begs her father, a taciturn loner, to consent. What happens is less significant than how it happens: The Wonders has an intimate,
Though she's barely a teenager, Gelsomina is in many ways the backbone of both the family and the business. She's the one on whom her father, Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), most
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Gelsomina's circumscribed world is changed by two things: the arrival of a troubled German boy, Luis Huilca's Martin, whom her father has taken on as a farmhand, and a minor accident that seems disastrous at first but later has happy consequences. Alice Rohrwacher, who also wrote the script, knows this land and its people — the film is set in her hometown, between Umbria-Lazio and Tuscany — though she has noted that it isn't autobiographical. Rohrwacher calls it a fable, but it may be more a beautifully smudgy sketch of both a way of living and a way of growing up.
It's Gelsomina, of course, we feel the most for. Lungu's performance is so hushed and unfussy that you may not realize how moving it is until after the picture's over. Her relationship with shy, anxious Martin, who doesn't speak but who has an uncanny talent for wild whistling, isn't the sexual coming-of-age transformation you might expect; instead, she offers him the kind of tenderness that both goes beyond sex and
Starring Maria Alexandra Lungu, Sam Louwyck, Monica Bellucci, Alba Rohrwacher, and Sabine Timoteo. Written and directed by Alice Rohrwacher. 110 minutes. Not rated. Opens Friday, November 27, at Lake Worth Playhouse (713 Lake Ave., Lake Worth; 561-586-6169; lakeworthplayhouse.org) and Living Room Theaters (FAU Main Campus, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton; 561-549-2600; fau.livingroomtheaters.com).