THE WONDERS (Alice Rohwacher). 111 minutes. Subtitled. Rating: NNN
Where to watch: iTunes
The story of an Italian family trying to maintain old-school farming traditions demonstrates director Alice Rohrwacher‘s considerable talent, despite its flaws.
Wolfgang (Sam Louwyck), his wife, Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher), and their four daughters are beekeepers in rural Italy. The eldest, Gelsomina (Maria Alexandra Lungu), is a born leader and obvious heir to Wolfgang’s strange, almost hermetically sealed kingdom.
The family’s forced to face the outside world when inspectors threaten to close them down because of outdated equipment. To muster some cash, they agree to take in troubled teen Martin (Luís Huilca Logrono) from child services, and then Gelsomina enters the family in a reality TV competition for farmers holding on to the old ways.
The beekeeping scenes are fascinating, and director Rohrwacher’s got a feel for authentic family exchange. She sensitively captures the preteen frisson of sexual interest when Gelsomina starts noticing Martin.
She does, however, have trouble with tone. The opening looks like a sequence from a stalker thriller, and Wolfgang seems more menacing than the story warrants. It’s too bad the amusing TV show – with an ironic Monica Bellucci as the host – doesn’t pack quite the punch the culture clash between old and new worlds should.
But if you’re looking for a gentle film with sometimes powerful imagery, The Wonders will work for you.