Mystery drama Wonderstruck impresses with its music and style, but plot is a mess [Review]

Mystery drama Wonderstruck impresses with its music and style, but plot is a mess [Review]

Two children from eras 50 years apart look for missing family members, and find a surprising connection

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Wonderstruck tells two stories from different time periods and is a tale about parent-child relationships.
Photo: Bravos Pictures Limited

Hong Kong fans of Brian Selznick’s brilliant YA novel have eagerly awaited the film adaptation to hit cinemas here, but the final product isn’t quite as magical as the book.

Wonderstruck concurrently tells the stories of two children living 50 years apart. In 1927 Rose, (Millicent Simmonds) a hearing-impaired film lover, runs away from home to chase after an actress she admires.

In 1977, Ben (Oakes Fegley) suddenly discovers a clue about a father he’s never met and undertakes a solo journey to look for him. Though living in distant time periods, both dream finding a missing piece of their lives.


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The film alternates between the two eras, and the visual style switches skillfully between the periods to add the settings themselves as characters. Sound was also used effectively, as half of the film was portrayed from Rose’s perspective.

In her silent world where no dialogue can be heard, we as the audience had to interpret the background music as another type of language. The soundtrack and musical flourishes served to convey emotions, build suspense, and offer clues to the inner thoughts of the characters.

Unfortunately, the plot itself left a lot to be desired. Though clues about the mystery of the two main characters’ connection were unveiled from time to time, the pacing was poor, and the final reveal too abrupt. Everything was basically spelt out for you in the blandest way possible. An interesting riddle alluded to multiple times in the film was also left unsolved, which was disappointing.


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Still, the young actors’ performances are to be commended. The friendship between Ben and his helpful friend Jamie (Jaden Michael), in particular, will give you some good laughs and heartful smiles.

Wonderstruck tries to make a statement about the importance of parent-child relationships, but just ends up being only a mediocre viewing experience. With multiple flaws in its narrative structure and a disastrous final act, it is interesting, but not must-watch material.

Edited by Jamie Lam

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