“The Wonder” is Wonderful
Women of all ages navigate the religious patriarchy
Based upon a book with the same name by Emma Donoghue, an English nurse travels to the Irish Midlands in 1862 to observe an 11-year-old girl who hasn’t eaten for months.
The film immediately breaks the fourth wall which reduces the presumptive nature of people to side with specific groups or individuals. The film would rather push us towards empathizing with different perspectives than to have us make assumptions.
It is within this idea of story which carries us through the film. The narrator in the beginning states, “We are nothing without stories.”
In a scene with Nurse Wright (played by the powerhouse Florence Pugh) and Kitty O’Donnell (played by the enchanting Niamh Algar), the nurse is dismissive towards Kitty’s religion. As a response, Kitty points out that the nurse constantly writes notes in her own book, which is continuously growing and becoming her own bible.
Kitty then breaks the fourth wall by looking directly into the camera. The narrator then says, “Hello again. I told you we were nothing without stories.”
It is an affirmation that although the characters are observing the same scenario, but they are coming to different conclusions. They are creating and living their own stories.
At the end of the film, the camera pans from Anna in her new life to off the set where Niamh Algar shows up on camera and says, “In. Out. In. Out.”
This is in reference to Anna O’Donnell (played by Kíla Lord Cassidy) saying “in out” as she twirled a string which had the pictures of a cage and a bird, an old illussion that can make it look as if the bird is both free and caged.
Again, we call into question the idea of story and perspective. We are happy to see Anna alive and seemingly well, but is she any more free than in the life she had before? Is she in or out of a cage? Is the cage literal or perceived?
Gender and Religion as Cages
Anna was a trapped bird because of her gender and the religion that guided her community.