London Film Festival: The Wonders

Directed by Alice Rohrwacher
Starring Alexandra Lunghi, Sam Louvyck, Alba Rohrwacher and Monica Bellucci

by Joanna Orland

Awarded the Grand Prix at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, Alice Rohrwacher’s tale of a young girl coming of age as she struggles to maintain her relationship with her father while forging her own identity, is a beautiful ambient rural drama. Set in the Italian countryside, the story follows Gelsomina as she is desperate to enter her family farm’s honey product into a televised competition. Her stubborn father refuses to oblige, too proud to admit his failures, desperate for the love of his daughter, while simultaneously pushing her away.

The father uses his children to work on the family farm. Gelsomina is his pride and joy and most dependable worker. She is desperate to please him and takes charge of her siblings and great pride in her work. Family friends begin to criticize the father for using his daughters as labourers and in return, he employs a young German boy who is brought over as a troubled youth, with the German government paying the family to give him board and to teach him the value of a hard day’s work.  While the father thinks he is doing his daughter a favour, Gelsomina begins to silently resent her father and begins to drift further from him, while forming a friendship with the young boy. Against her father’s wishes, she enters the family honey into the television competition, and relationships are tested to great dramatic effect.

The directing of this film is beautiful. Rohrwacher has a strong appreciation for her landscapes and makes the rural environment as much of a character as the main family members. Rohrwacher also has a particular fondness for Gelsomina who holds most of the camera’s attention throughout the film. She thrives in extreme closeups, notably as she shows off her talents of working with the bees.

The cast is nicely expanded by the father played by Sam Louvyck in an excellent performance. The relationship he forges with daughter Gelsomina is naturalistic and subtly emotional. The young children of the family provide amazing comic relief and are so adorable, it’s ridiculous. Even the children’s performances are naturalistic and this family feels like a proper unit.

Fantastic directing and performances make The Wonders one of the most subtly affective gems of 2014.

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