With an opening, and an ending that reminds us that how we see stories is all perspective, The Wonder explores the line between fact and faith, science and religion. Based on the book by Emma Donoghue, The Wonder is beguiling, introspective, and moody.
In the mid-19th century, an English nurse, Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) who worked with Nightingale in the Crimean Wars, is summoned by a council in the midlands of Ireland to perform watch over an apparent miracle child. She will work opposite shifts to a nun (Josie Walker) as they investigate eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell (Kila Lord Cassidy).
Anna, according to reports, is in the image of health, if a little delicate, but hasn’t had a bite to eat in four months. Lib knows that is impossible, and while there are those in the village who are quite happy to see this as a possible sign from god, that she is in fact a holy miracle, Lib works to learn the truth.
And perspective colours the truths that come out.
Aided and intrigued by a determined reporter, William Byrne (Tom Burke), Lib struggles to understand what is going on in the O’Donnell house, what Anna’s story really is, and the faith of believers.
Religion and science often find themselves at odds and this time it plays out with the life of a young girl in the balance, as Anna’s health begins to fail shortly after Lib arrives and begins her watch. Before the story’s end, perspectives and points of view will shift, and Lib will have to make some life-affecting decisions.
Eating and simple actions, including those of affection, are given huge import to story and character. From the council table, which is skewed but only appears level because of the tilt of the floor, to the beliefs of the town doctor (Toby Jones) and the town cleric (Ciaran Hinds), everything is perspective, and how things are seen by those viewing and those being viewed.
Well-crafted, beautifully shot, Pugh shines and brings gravitas to her performance that imbues Lib and the world she inhabits with a heavy reality.
The Wonder screens one more time at TIFF, tomorrow night, Thursday the 15th, at the Royal Alexandra Theatre.