Last week, legendary Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert died at age 70 — but not before writing and filing one final, appropriately philosophical piece of film criticism for his many fans to consume. On Saturday, the Chicago Sun-Times published what turned out to be Ebert's last film review, for Terrence Malick's dreamlike spiritual drama To The Wonder.
To The Wonder, which stars Ben Affleck as a man torn between two women (Rachel McAdams and Olga Kurylenko), has been far more polarizing than director Terrence Malick's previous film, the Oscar-nominated The Tree of Life. So far, To The Wonder has earned just 42 percent positive reviews on aggregator Rotten Tomatoes — but Ebert bolstered the film with an extremely laudatory review, awarding it three and a half out of four stars. Here's an excerpt:
A more conventional film would have assigned a plot to these characters and made their motivations more clear. Malick, who is surely one of the most romantic and spiritual of filmmakers, appears almost naked here before his audience, a man not able to conceal the depth of his vision.
"Well," I asked myself, "why not?" Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren't many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren't many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn't that almost worse than never having had them in the first place?
There will be many who find "To the Wonder" elusive and too effervescent. They'll be dissatisfied by a film that would rather evoke than supply. I understand that, and I think Terrence Malick does, too. But here he has attempted to reach more deeply than that: to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need. [Chicago Sun-Times]