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The Wonder review – Florence Pugh is miraculously good in eerie drama - - Welcome Press "Enter" to skip to content

The Wonder review – Florence Pugh is miraculously good in eerie drama

Toronto film festival: The star plays a nurse investigating an alleged miracle in a captivating period thriller about the dangers of religious fervor

There’s a confounding first frame in Sebastián Lelio’s eerie and unusual period drama The Wonder, taking us somewhere we really didn’t expect, a wrong-footed leap not into the past but into the present, behind the scenes rather than in them. It starts on a film set, a construct, Niamh Algar’s soothing voice telling us that we are watching a film but that the characters believe in their reality. It’s an awfully pretentious and ultimately unrewarding opening gambit, a fourth wall destroyer that seems created by someone who doesn’t trust the power of the film it precedes.

Lelio needn’t have worried. His thoughtful adaptation of Emma Donaghue’s acclaimed 2016 novel doesn’t need a gimmick to compel us, a magnetic and mysterious little marvel rich in atmosphere and allure. Lelio’s framing device takes us from artifice straight to the face of Florence Pugh, an actor who thankfully excels at the exact opposite, never less than utterly, mesmerically convincing. She plays an English nurse called Lib, called out to remote Ireland in the 1860s to investigate and assist on the case of Anna, (an assured Kila Lord Cassidy) an 11-year-old girl who hasn’t eaten for four months yet remains bizarrely healthy. She’s one of two women, the other being a nun, asked to watch her in shifts, reporting back on any explanation for something so potentially miraculous.

The Wonder is screening at the Toronto film festival and will be released on Netflix on 7 December

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