Alice Rohrwacher's The Wonders is centered around a family of beekeepers living in the isolated countryside of central Italy. The father of the household runs a strict regime, intent on secluding his children from the fast-changing outside world that he believes has fallen apart. Gelsomina, the oldest of four daughters and heir to the family business, is a hard-working young woman who begins to lash out, intent on experiencing the world outside of her father's point-of-view. This is in large part due to outside influences that begin to make Gelsomina question things. Between the arrival of Martin, a silently troubled teenage boy who is taken as a farmhand, and a cheesy television special that is recruiting local farmers, Gelsomina experiences a quasi-awakening as she begins to question her families long-standing standards. The Wonders is a nuanced and complex portrait of family which effectively captures a family trying to live by their own standards. A coming of age film of sorts, The Wonders is a very restrained experience, subtlety hinting at various family dynamics while never going so far as to state them out right. The film conveys a sense of wonder and confusion that oftentimes is a integral part of growing up, showing how this creates a strain on family while simultaneously being an important part of how families evolve. The Wonders works so well because it isn't just a coming of age tale but a film about society vs. family, rural vs. urban, with Gelsomina's family unwilling to adjust to the modernized world. The film doesn't pick sides, showing the constraints of living on the outskirts of society both economically and politically, while simultaneously showing this intimate level of affection which seclusion provides. Alice Rohrwacher's The Wonders is a film that purposely leaves the viewer in the dark, unwilling to explain the character's backstories, which in the end makes it an endlessly more fascinating and complex study of family and the outside factors that influence it.
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