4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Todd Haynes
scr Brian Selznick
prd Christine Vachon, Pamela Koffler, John Sloss
with Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds, Julianne Moore, Jaden Michael, Michelle Williams, Tom Noonan, James Urbaniak, Cory Michael Smith, Morgan Turner, Sawyer Nunes, Amy Hargreaves, Raul Torres
release UK Oct.17 lff, US 20.Oct.17
17/US Amazon 1h57
Night at the museum: Fegley and Michael

moore williams noonan
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Wonderstruck There's an intricate web of connections at the heart of this ambitious film, gradually building a expanding mystery that quietly sucks the audience in until a goosebump-inducing finale. It takes awhile to get there, but it's well worth the wait, augmented by director Todd Haynes' astonishing attention to detail in two iconic cinematic periods. And all of the central performances are powerfully moving.

In 1977 Minnesota, 12-year-old Ben (Fegley) is still in shock following the death of his mother (Williams). Then a lightning strike leaves him deaf. Determined to find the father he never knew, he runs away to New York, following the slimmest of clues. His journey echoes that of Rose (Simmonds), a deaf girl who in 1927 ran away from home to find movie star Lillian (Moore) in Manhattan. Both children end up at the Natural History Museum, linked 50 years apart by a picture book about the wonder of museum collections.

Haynes films the two strands in period style: groovy 70s colour and the grainy black and white of a 20s silent movie. And he cleverly uses music and sound to evoke emotions along the way. The script layers in links between the two strands right from the start, often subtle hints that connect these characters across half a century. So there's a continual stream of revelations about these people that redefines their relation to each other, and extra rewards for alert viewers.

The main emotion expressed by the cast is yearning, as each person is seeking information that will help make sense of where they fit in the world. This makes all of the characters compelling, and it puts the audience firmly in Ben's shoes. Fegley makes him engagingly impatient for the truth, and ready for it when it finally comes along. On her parallel journey, Simmonds has terrific screen presence, a feisty, smart young girl who can't sit still. And Moore gets the best sequence in the film, resolving the mystery in a simply stunning setting without speaking a word.

As always, Haynes' painstaking film history references are deeply meaningful, speaking to the characters' desire to reach for the stars even if their concerns are more obviously earthbound. So if the songs seem a little on-the-nose, they also add beautifully to the sweeping, engulfing atmosphere. And when the full truth emerges, it carries a serious emotional wallop, reminding us that we need to be connected to each other to feel alive.

cert 15 themes, some violence 5.Oct.17 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Wonderstruck Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall