The combination of Florence Pugh and a period drama has been a recipe for success in her short yet impressive career so far. She captivated audiences in Lady Macbeth before shining amongst a stellar ensemble cast in Little Women, that went on to earn her an Academy Award nomination (should have been a win). Now in Sebastián Lelio's The Wonder, Pugh finds herself thrust into a Gothic setting with such miraculous results.

English nurse Lib Wright (Florence Pugh) is brought to a tiny village to observe eleven-year old Anna O'Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy). Tourists and pilgrims mass to witness the girl who is said to have survived without food for months.
The Wonder focuses on such a powerful tug-of-war between religion and science that provides the film with such a fascinating set-up. It's one that leads to many interesting conflicts throughout, the screenplay never taking the chance to make a mockery of either side even though we the audience know who is in the right here. There's always a danger of films that deal with religion vs science falling into a trap of overcomplicating things and getting lost up its own arse yet Lelio and Alice Birch's writing keeps things nice and simple, working well as this is effectively a matter of life or death.

The Irish Midlands of 1862 come to life in such haunting fashion thanks to Ari Wegner's gorgeous sweeping cinematography, while another shot held on Pugh walking towards the camera emphasises her presence on the family and the urgency she has to save this girl's life. Matthew Herbert's score adds another haunting layer to the film, particularly when it creates an unnerving sense to the calmness of the majority of characters toward the girl's situation.
It's become second nature to Florence Pugh to provide the stand-out performance in any film she appears in and that is very much the case in The Wonder. She does an incredible job in building up a rapport with the girl that brings about a genuine sense of fear for the girl's life. Kíla Lord Cassidy will learn a lot from appearing alongside Pugh and she does herself proud with a performance full of vulnerability and innocence. Niamh Algar and Elaine Cassidy provide the resistance to Pugh's duty to prevent the girl from dying in quite fine fashion too.

I found myself to be totally captivated by The Wonder and its depiction of religion vs science, Pugh stealing the show and taking it to greater heights. Be sure to look out for this on Netflix later in the year.

Verdict: ★★★★


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