Florence Pugh’s two high profile films of 2022, The Wonder and Don’t Worry Darling, are both available for streaming now. The Wonder, which is the better of the two, is streaming on Netflix while Don’t Worry Darling is streaming on HBO Max and is also available for purchase on DVD and Blu-ray.
The Wonder is based on the 2016 novel by Emma Donoghue (The Room) with a screenplay by Donoghue, Alice Birch, and the film’s director, Sebastian Lelio (Fantastic Woman). It takes place in Western Ireland in 1862, ten years after the end of the Great Famine.
Pugh plays an English nurse who has been hired by the local town council to observe a young girl who hasn’t eaten in four months. She is not allowed to feed her against her will but may give her food if she asks for it. The girl, played by Kila Lord Cassidy, claims she is being kept alive by manna from Heaven. Although Pugh pleads with the family and the council that the girl be taken to a hospital, they refuse.
The girl’s parents believe that God takes the best young children to be his personal angels and they are blessed, having already lost their son and will be double blessed when their daughter is called as well. The council has motives of its own. The religious fanatics want to have the girl’s long pre-death survival without eating declared a miracle. The more scientific minded members of the council want to able to have her body autopsied to prove that the whole thing has been a hoax and that she had been fed small amounts of food on the long, slow road to her death.
Nominated for 12 British Independent Film Awards including Best Independent Film, Director, Lead Performance (Pugh), Breakthrough Performance (Lord Cassidy), Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Hair & Makeup, Score, Production Design, Sound, and Ensemble, the film doesn’t seem to be high on Oscar prediction lists, at least not yet.
Pugh and Lord Cassidy, the daughter of actors John Lord and Elaine Cassidy, who plays her mother in the film, are terrific together. The bond they form is reminiscent of the one formed by Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker. Not to give the ending away, but good triumphs over evil thanks to the tenacity of the film’s heroine beautifully underplayed by Pugh.
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