How would you react to learning about a little girl who supposedly hasn’t eaten in four months, yet is thriving physically? How far would you go to understand this mystery or — as others describe her — miracle child? What would you do if in this search for answers, you discover something beyond your radar? These are some of the questions that Elizabeth Wright has buzzing through her mind as she tries to understand how Anna O’Donnell has thrived while starving herself in the new Netflix thriller “The Wonder.”
This film is right up Florence Pugh’s alley: A psychological mystery with various ominous pauses and innuendos. As she does with nearly all her roles, Pugh skillfully executes the role of an English nurse with a great deal of suspicion toward a young girl’s health. Although like many of the films she’s been involved in, this one confused me for a long time.
Elizabeth Wright — or as the audience and characters grow to call her, Lib — is an English nurse brought in along with a nun in order to participate in a project known as “the watch.” Their job is simply to simply watch Anna O’Donnell, an 11-year-old girl who lives in a secluded home with her family and has supposedly gone four months without any nourishment besides water. They are instructed not to enforce anything upon the girl nor are they allowed to administer any sort of treatment; of course, this does not settle well with Lib.
In her quest, Lib discovers Anna’s intense piety. While this may explain Anna’s mental strength to withstand hunger, it cannot explain her lack of physical desire for nutrients. This confusion leads to Lib essentially cutting off Anna’s connection with her family, and this is when her physical downfall begins. She begins to grow faint, and her spiritual aspects dwindle. Why now? Did Lib do something? Is this an act? Question after question builds in this movie for both the characters and the audience.
Framing this main storyline are various substories that contribute to this mind jumble. The counsel that hired Lib acts strangely as soon as she develops a diagnosis, the O’Donnells have a son that they avoid speaking of at all costs and Lib has a weird night routine that she doesn’t even seem truly awake for. This creates an illusion that there are many secrets kept between the characters and the audience, but why? Why would anyone want their daughter’s reputation to be “the girl who doesn’t eat,” or why would a nurse lead two lives between night and day?
Those of you who are fans of psychological movies may find this interesting and riveting; however, if you’re like me, this film may leave you with more questions than answers, about the film as well as the real world. I recommend giving it a chance, even if it takes you multiple distraction-free views to fully understand. The storyline itself is intriguing, but the brains of the audience contribute to the viewing experience just as heavily.