The Wonder is a gripping psychological drama directed by Sebastián Lelio and released on 16 November 2022 by Netflix. It is an adaptation of a novel by Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the script. The film stars Florence Pugh and has received positive reviews from audiences and critics alike. Set in 1862 Ireland, the story follows a British nurse who is sent to a remote village to observe a young girl who has not eaten for four months but remains healthy. As her condition deteriorates, the nurse begins to suspect that something else is happening behind closed doors.
The story centers around Elizabeth Wright, a nurse who previously worked in the Crimean War. She is summoned to a small village in remote Ireland to observe Anna, a young girl who has not eaten for four months but remains in good health. A committee of elders requests the observation to determine if this is a miracle or not. Elizabeth is accompanied by a nun, and they plan to report their observations after two weeks. Upon arrival, she is met with resistance due to the recent famine that the village had just experienced.
Elizabeth observes that Anna’s family is highly religious, with Anna being able to recite Bible verses by heart. Her fast since her birthday is considered by many as a miracle. Daily visitors come to see Anna to request her prayers. She is considered a saintly figure. Whenever Elizabeth asked where she drew her strength, Anna always responded that she was given manna from heaven by God. Elizabeth could not find any lies in Anna’s and her family’s words nor indication of any frauds in taking advantage of the ‘miracle’ to get money from visitors’ donations.
Elizabeth spends her evenings reflecting on her baby’s death while drinking laudanum. She meets William Byrne, a journalist of the Daily Telegraph who came from London but originally hails from the same village, at her boarding house. At first, Elizabeth is annoyed by William’s speculation that Anna is just a hoax. However, upon realizing that there is a possibility of Anna being fed through her mother’s mouth every morning and night, Elizabeth bans all of Anna’s family members from being around her during Elizabeth’s observation.
Anna’s condition then begins to deteriorate, but she adamantly refuses to eat. As a nurse, Elizabeth cannot bear to see her patient suffer. She attempts to force-feed Anna using a tube, but she gives up halfway due to emotions getting the best of her, causing her to inflict pain on Anna. Anna later reveals the truth to Elizabeth that the manna she speaks of is the food her mother feeds her through their mouth, and Anna carries out her fast as redemption. Anna had been raped by her brother when she was nine. Her brother died soon after from an unknown illness, and Anna believes it was a punishment from God.
William, who had several encounters with Anna, starts publishing the results of his interviews with the young girl in the local newspaper, shaking the entire village. He writes that Anna’s death would be caused by her family and the village’s excessive worship of her. Despite Elizabeth’s conclusions that Anna’s mother feeds her via mouth-kissing, Anna and her mother deny the claim, calling Elizabeth a liar. Elizabeth promises to take care of Anna until she dies due to the state of her health worsening.
Realizing that there is no hope for Anna to live in her family, Elizabeth teams up with William to kidnap Anna. When all of Anna’s family go to church, Elizabeth takes Anna to a holy lake and manages to feed her. She then sets Anna’s house on fire, inadvertently causing Anna’s hands to burn. Elizabeth reports that Anna has died in the fire. As punishment, Elizabeth is not allowed to leave until the committee makes a decision. What happens to Elizabeth next? Does Anna really die, or is there more to the story?
The Wonder is a haunting story of a village’s belief in miracles and how it could lead to tragedy. The film explores the themes of redemption, faith, and the lengths one could go to protect those they care about. With Florence Pugh’s outstanding performance, the film will take you on a psychological journey you won’t forget.