I don't think anybody truly expected Terrence Malick's "To the Wonder" to be received in a negative fashion on the critical front, but what the hell is with the booing over in Venice? Even at my most blatantly pissed off, I never express vocal disappointment at a film screening. As a matter of fact, I don't say a word, letting the film get all the attention from everyone in the audience as I can give. The reviews that have found their way to us since the film's screening in Venice have been quite resoundingly positive, so the reason for all this booing is beyond me. All the same, a film that retrieves such a vocal response from a room of "professionals" almost immediately demands attention.
Guy Lodge (In Contention): "One could wonder why a director as famously indifferent to actors (and commerce) as Malick -- Rachel Weisz's role, incidentally, has been given the old Adrien Brody heave-ho here -- continues to hire such big-name actors. (You might think he of all directors would be in favor of non-pro casts.) The combined attractiveness of this star quartet runs the risk of making the film's least integrated or resonant sequences -- those in which Bardem wearily calls on all manner of buck-toothed, poverty-stricken local parishioners -- the teeniest bit condescending to boot. Even this faint absurdity, however, seems parcelled up in Malick's restless, tender, unfashionable quest for beauty in its highest physical and spiritual forms."
Justin Chang (Variety): "Never before has Malick explored sexuality so openly onscreen, and while the nudity is fairly discreet, the eroticism of flesh cradling flesh, even the gesture of a hand touching a shoulder, turns out to be a natural subject for Lubezki's exquisitely graceful camerawork. If shots of characters running through overgrown fields (at one point encountering a random herd of bison) feel de rigueur by this point, the modern conveniences shown here, such as a Skype chat on Marina's laptop, would seem to point Malick's sensibility in a promising new direction."
Matt Mueller (Thompson on Hollywood): "Malick is a revered cinematic poet, deservedly so, and striving for lyrical transcendence on screen is his worthwhile ambition. But it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card either. "To The Wonder", to me, played like a slighter (and more repetitive) version of "The Tree Of Life" in most respects, its flowing, exquisite imagery and elegant soundscape certainly pleasing to the eye and ear but the moves and motives of its sketchy characters failing to offer enough substance to nourish the spirit. At one point, Marina's daughter observes as her mother continues her very long wait for Neil to pop the question, "There's something missing here." She's not wrong."
Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter): "Perhaps there is a hidden rhythmic and thematic structure behind the facade of To the Wonder that has to do with the coming and going of seasons and emotions, the rise and fall of relationships, the difficulty of sustaining love and faith and so on, all connected to the use of music and the echoing of voice-over. If so, however, it doesn’t assert itself meaningfully during the act of watching a film that seems drained of life and ideas rather than sustained by them."