Complete A-Z list

Wonder, The


Stars: Florence Pugh, Tom Burke, Kila Lord Cassidy, Toby Jones, Elaine Cassidy, Ciaran Hinds, Niamh Algar, David Wilmot, Ruth Bradley, Dermot Crowley

Director: Sebastian Lelio

Slow and sombre yet absorbing period mystery drama, set in a bleaker part of middle Ireland in 1862. English nurse Elizabeth Wright (a commanding Florence Pugh), a Crimean War veteran whose husband deserted her after their baby died, is commissioned to 'watch over' a 'miracle child' whose story has gripped a nation.

Eleven-year-old Anna (an extraordinary, luminous, major-role debut from Kila Lord Cassidy), whose impoverished family live in a primitive cottage in the middle of nowhere, has supposedly not eaten for four months, but appears to still be in decent health. She has, unsurprisingly, become something of a celebrity, and an Irish-born London journalist (Strike's Tom Burke), also turns up to pursue the story.

Elizabeth, or Lib, watches the constantly-praying Anna in eight-hour shifts with a local nun. 'I don't need to eat,' the girl tells her. 'I live on manna from Heaven.'

Lib obviously has her own problems. At night, she pricks her fingers, sucks the blood and clasps her dead baby's booties in some kind of carnal ecstasy. On duty, however, she remains watchful. After she forbids the family to come near Anna, the girl begins to waste away. Eventually, the key to the mystery, involving Anna's dead brother, is unlocked, and Elizabeth has to decide what to do next.

Cleverly written, partly by the author of the original novel, the film has photography by Ari Wegner that is equally at home in gloomy or bright surroundings, while the screenplay keeps you hoping for an ending that's somewhat less dismal than the claustrophobic interiors of the cottage.

Elaine Cassidy, who plays the mother involved, is the real-life mum of Kila Lord Cassidy, She certainly has a talented daughter.

In selected cinemas and on Netflix.

David Quinlan

Ireland 2022. UK Distributor: Netflix. Colour by Cinelab.
108 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 16 Dec 2022