Wonderstruck Is Brimming with Classic, Handcrafted Heart

Todd Haynes is an artistic filmmaker known for his bold, mature, artistic explorations of rock n roll (The Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There) and the forbidden (Far From Heaven, Carol) – to name just a few of the themes he’s drawn to. So for him to make a straightforward children’s movie is quite a departure, to say the least!

Wonderstruck is a cinematic adaptation of Brian Selznick’s illustrated novel of the same name. His better-known book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, was made into a 3D extravaganza by Martin Scorsese. Wonderstruck is a love letter to… well, love. The love of family, of stories, solitude, friends, mystery, and adventure. It’s a lot to take on and clocking in at nearly two hours, Wonderstruck covers a lot of ground and even more history. This is a movie brimming with old-fashioned, handcrafted heart, and those are pretty rare.


2017, PG

It begins as two parallel adventures across 50 years: Twelve-year-old Rose’s (Millicent Simmonds) story starts in 1927. She’s being raised by her taciturn father, while she longs to find her mother who is far away in New York City. The only solace Rose can find is at the cinema, but even that turns sour when “talkies” are introduced. Rose is deaf, struggling to fit into an ever-louder world. So is her 1977 counterpart, 12-year-old Ben (Oakes Fegley).

Bookish Ben has just lost his hearing in a freak accident. He’s also lost his mother (Michelle Williams) to a car crash, and he never did know his father. But Ben finds a clue about his dad, which leads him to Manhattan – same as Rose, all those years ago. As the children’s stories are revealed, their fates become entwined deeper and deeper, until they finally converge in the end. Along the way, other characters join the fray – there’s a mysterious old woman (Julianne Moore, in age-makeup) and a lonely but buoyant latchkey kid named Jamie (Jaden Michael) – who factor into the carefully-woven yarn.

Rose’s story is shown in plain, crisp black-and-white, while Ben’s portion mirrors the vibrant, grainy color film of the 1970s. New York in the Jazz Age is presented with the hustle and bustle of the few horse-drawn carriages left, fighting for street-space with Model-T motorcars and pedestrians galore, as buildings are going up and with the economy. New York in the 70s is gritty, trashy, colorful, graffitied and rundown, punctuated by classic glam and funk music. Indoors, both kids are enthralled by the Museum of Natural History with its dioramas, dinosaur bones, and dark corners.

Wonderstruck might run a bit long for Generation ADD – I’ll admit, even I was fidgeting towards the end – but most kids will get caught up in the adventure and will love seeing how the pilgrimage of Rose and Ben all ties together.

Will you watch Wonderstruck with the kids? What are some other movies you’re looking forward to this year? Share with us!

Visit Common Sense Media for more info on this movie’s appropriateness for your child.

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