Wonderstruck is about loss and hope, Todd Haynes wants you to suspend disbelief and tap into your childhood innocence and wonder. The beauty of this film is what you decide to see will determine how you enjoy this film.
The film is based on the children’s book (of the same name) written by Brian Selznick. It tells the story of Rose in 1927, a deaf little girl who escapes the confines of her house and goes on a journey to New York City in search of a movie star. Fifty years later, Ben, deaf after a freak accident, goes on a journey to New York City to find his father. The film follows their parallel stories and we watch how their worlds and lives slowly intertwine.
Both Rose and Ben are both deaf in the film; this allows Todd Haynes to concentrate and accentuate the visuals here – as with Carol, the attention to detail and use of colour are magnificent. There is no audio, aside from the film score and the whole portion of the film set in the 1920s is shot in black and white. In 1977, the film is bathed in a kaleidoscope of colours and music and in particular, David Bowie – his music is used to reinforce the wonder and of the story being other worldly.
The child actors are the beating heart of this film. They all do a good job of evoking childhood innocence. However they lack the emotional range especially in the scenes between Ben (Oakes Fegley) and the adult Rose (Julianne Moore). In a way that doesn’t matter because if you view Wonderstruck as a fairy story for adults and children alike then it all works well as a complete story.