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Arts and Entertainment Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017 4 years ago

Film review: 'Wonderstruck'

Director Todd Haynes brings the unique perspective of two deaf children to life — even though their stories take place five decades apart.

"Wonderstruck" is a film about two parallel stories set fifty years apart. In it, two deaf children are mysteriously drawn to one another in New York City while searching for familial connections. 

1977: Ben (Oakes Fegley) is a 12-year-old boy living in Gunflint, Minn. with relatives. His beloved mother (Michelle Williams) has been suddenly killed in a car accident, never having told him who his father is. Ben's desire to find his father becomes an obsession. He believes that his mother left him a clue as to his identity and he runs off to New York in hopes of tracking him down. Sadly, Ben is hit by lightning and rendered deaf before his departure. 


1927: Rose (Millicent Simmonds), also 12-years-old, lives in Hoboken, New Jersey with her incredibly cruel father (James Urbaniak). In her private world she idolizes silent movie star, Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore). Rose, too, is deaf. In a desperate move to connect with someone, she goes in search of Ms. Mayhew across the river in the city.

Based on Brian Selznick's ("Hugo") children's novel, the film is directed by Todd Haynes ("Far From Heaven") who gloriously captures the look and feel of the city in both time periods. In a stroke of genius he utilizes black and white photography during Rose's voyage and color for Ben's, eliminating any possible confusion between the two. Each era is brilliantly captured through his lens as well as the music of the respective times, scored by Carter Burwell ("Fargo"). But Haynes has also created a very quiet film with long stretches of dialogue-free scenes. And the editing is amazing given the challenges.

Haynes' penchant for making museums come to life is gloriously on display throughout this magical film. In one most notable shot, Moore's character walks through a diorama (a miniature three-dimensional display) of New York City created specifically for the 1964 World's Fair. It's eerie and exhilarating to witness. It also put life in its proper perspective.

"Wonderstruck" is a beautiful, cosmic fairy tale about the importance of human connections in our lives. It will stir your senses and touch your heart. There's a quote used often in the film by Oscar Wilde which sums up the message being put forth: "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

How true.  

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