Critics' Pick

The Wonders (Le Meraviglie) (NR)

Drama 110 min. November 27, 2015
By Stephanie Zacharek
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. 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, 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, subtly buzzing power.

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 relies, and she’s also clearly his favorite -- together, they tend the bees with a spirit that's both workmanlike and affectionately respectful. Gelsomina is a solemn, responsible girl, dutiful and self-sufficient: Her mother, Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher, the director's sister), is so busy with the family's other farming enterprises -- sheep, tomatoes -- that she doesn't have much time to spare for her eldest girl. That's how it often goes with the oldest child, a truth Rohrwacher explores in beneath-the-surface ways: Like a minnow in a pool, it's just one of the many subtle but shimmering ideas darting through The Wonders. (Stephanie Zacharek)
Alice Rohrwacher Monica Bellussi, Sam Louwyck, Alba Rohrwacher, Sabine Timoteo, Luis Huilca, Monica Bellucci Alice Rohrwacher Carlo Cresto-Dina, Karl Baumgartner, Tiziana Soudani, Michael Weber Oscilloscope Pictures

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