Based on the illustrated novel by Brian Selznick, who also wrote The Invention Of Hugo Cabret, this is a beautiful, moving movie that follows the journey of two children, fifty years apart in 1927 and 1977.
As directed by Todd Haynes, better known for grown up fare like Far From Heaven, Carol and Velvet Goldmine, it is a love letter to movies, and especially those of the two eras in which the film is set. First, there is the story – filmed in black and white – of young deaf girl Rose (Simmonds), who runs away from her strict father to New York, to see her mother and idol, silent movie actress Lillian Mayhew (Moore).
Then, half a century later, we meet Ben (Fegley), recently rendered deaf in an accident, who leaves his Minnesota home after his mother (Williams) dies to go to New York to find the father he has never met.
Haynes recreates two very different Manhattans for Ben and Rose’s stories, and gives the whole movie a dreamlike quality as the two children brave the perils of the big city. Like their worlds, the movie is often without words, which adds to the unique atmosphere of their adventures.
While younger children could struggle with the movie’s structure of switching between the two worlds, and may not have the patience for the languorous pace of the story, older kids and adults – especially those that are movie buffs – will appreciate Haynes’ attention to detail, the slow unwinding of Rose and Ben’s quests for family and love and the heartfelt performances from the two young leads (especially Simmonds, in her first film role).
A thoughtful movie about children, family and love that will stay with you long after the end credits.
Wonderstruck is aimed at older children – younger viewers (under age 10) may be upset when the lead characters are alone and vulnerable in New York.
Younger viewers may also be upset at the death of Ben’s mother (though it is not shown) and his subsequent accident that renders him deaf.
There are also scenes in which adults are not particularly nice to Ben or Rose which may upset sensitive viewers.
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