What rang deeper with me (and I’m not a particularly religious person at all) were the picture’s themes of faith and spirituality; Javier Bardem’s character and his existential dilemma of having put his trust in God, but never really daring to speak aloud that he felt an absence of faith. The two themes, love and faith, kind of intermingle, but never quite coalesce, like two gusts of winds that meet for a moment and then are dispersed into nothing. “To The Wonder” is almost obsessed with gliding cameras and movement, mood and tone, but it's so evanescent, it feels more like a whisper than a deep, everlasting story. Perhaps that’s exactly the point and that heart-aching longing for something missing in your life is a profound pain and experience that everyone in life has likely once felt. It’s just that I’m feeling that expressly in my critical mind and not in my heart or soul and in a Terrence Malick movie, that’s almost a kiss of death. Admirably digging for something deeper beyond narrative and pretty to look at, the picture sadly doesn't penetrate or move me much. I need to chalk this up in the “miss” category for me and I hate comparing apples and oranges, but "The Tree Of Life" contains much more cinematic nutrition and food for thought. Terrence Malick films generally inspire wonder and awe, and I think this one falls a little short. - Rodrigo Perez
An unofficial autobiography of sorts, it doesn’t match his life story beat for beat, but Malick was undeniably drawing on his own experiences and relationships in this film, putting those into a blender with his spiritual queries, and laying them out fairly open. "Earnest" is often used a cheapshot, but “To The Wonder” is, in the best way possible, but it also asks the audience to shed a defensive coating and any distance (no matter how remote) we may have from a movie and to experience it with the breadth of our beliefs and history. A common complaint is that Malick’s films lack a real plot, but again, it’s less about what’s going to happen in the narrative as what is happening right now with the individual.
“The Tree Of Life” and “To The Wonder” are companion pieces, and they find a filmmaker deep in a crisis of faith. They wonder aloud how we can grasp the full dimensions of love, life and death, when the purity of the natural world, our complexity of human coexistence and our innermost souls all seem to been turned rotten to various degrees. Is it because God has left us or we have left God? There are no answers, but these films search and search -- perhaps Malick isn’t finding the movie in the edit, maybe he’s just trying to find answer. Yes, Malick’s films are undeniably gorgeous, but they are also dark and haunted and pained, forever yearning, continually awed and also imbued with loss. (Also, it should be mentioned that Malick's camera is also critical -- the plain and ugly suburbs don't go unnoticed and particularly the characters Javier Bardem's priest consoles are far from the Hollywood pretty of the movie's leads).
“To The Wonder” is flawed, excessive and imperfectly formed. But it’s also probing, curious, carefree and cruel, contemplating questions and ideas with an intense and wondrous emotional bravery few filmmakers possess, let alone exercise. -- Kevin Jagernauth