The story of a young boy in the Midwest is told simultaneously with a tale about a young girl in New York from 50 years ago as they both seek the same mysterious connection.
Wonderstruck is wonderful! Though cloaked in tragedy and loss, this movie is utterly enchanting. Produced in the vein of Brian Selznick’s other acclaimed, illustrated novel-turned-film, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonderstruck, too, follows the journey of a boy and a girl, albeit they are in different decades here. Young pre-teen Rose wanders through New York alone trying to find her way, and herself, in the silent era of the 1920s, while Ben, of the same age, traces those sometimes exact footsteps, for similar reasons, through Queens and its local museum in the 1970s. The direction and visual/sound editing are seamless, as the story jumps from one era to another, from black and white to color, and from silence to sound.
Moreover, director Todd Haynes’ choice of film stock over digital and his constant use of music magically maintains a visual and aural tempo that works as both an homage to silent film and the modern era. He also gives a nod to Italian neo-realism, as his lead actress Millicent Simmonds, who plays Rose, does not just enact a deaf person, she is actually deaf. Having never been on screen before, the raw innocence and authenticity she brings to the role carries an air of both reality and mystery. Ben, played heartwarmingly by Oakes Fegley, also struggles with deafness, likewise conveying the resiliency of children, as both communicate outside of the standard norm, relying heavily on visual representations, which is quite childlike in itself.
Thus, through the interweaving of these two narratives that play creatively with form, this film is about the power of story—all kinds of story—to help define us: written, aural, and visual, through film, music, language, and artifacts. These two characters are searching for belonging, and one of their primary sources is a museum. Both Rose and Ben feel rejected, alone, and misunderstood, but it is by relentlessly pursuing their place in the world through connecting to others’ stories that they find their way to who they are. Haynes creatively highlights the value of family and friends, whose unique stories are not only already written, but are also continuing to evolve. Ben and Rose mystically cross paths at a key moment, leaving us with the idea—as they stare off at the stars—that though our singular stories are meaningful, greater forces are at play in a larger meta-narrative, where we are not just islands unto ourselves; our actions and choices affect others, as we are in fact connected through history, circumstances, and especially love.
We are proud to award this movie the Dove-Approved Seal for All Ages.