Regia: Todd Haynes Cast: Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds, Julianne Moore, Michelle Williams, Jaden Michael, Cory Michael Smith, Tom Noonan, Amy Hargreaves, James Urbaniak, Hays Wellford, Damian Young, Morgan Turner, Ekaterina Samsonov, Anthony Natale, Sawyer Nunes, Marko Caka, Brian Berrebbi, Michael Wren Gucciardo, Tom Waters, Patrick Murney, Connor Moeller, Mackenzie Grace Castle, Derek Chadwick, Raul Torres Durata: 120 min
Based on the novel of the same name by author and illustrator Brian Selznick, whose The Invention of Hugo Cabret inspired Martin Scorsese’s fanciful “Hugo,” “Wonderstruck” follows the adventures of two kids who run away to New York City, 50 years apart, seeking answers and a sense of peace. Both are lonely and isolated; both are plucky despite their troubled homes. They also both happen to be hearing impaired. But they manage to find allies and figure out a way to survive through their resourcefulness and—as Selznick’s script not so subtly suggests—a healthy heaping of magic.
Ben (Oakes Fegley, star of last year’s “Pete’s Dragon”) isn’t deaf at the film’s start. Living with relatives in rural Gunflint, Minnesota, in 1977, Ben dreams of the mother (Michelle Williams) who recently died in a car crash and the father whose identity he’s never known. While going through her belongings looking for clues, he finds a book about curiosity cabinets from a secondhand store in New York. Inside is a bookmark inscribed with a sentimental note for his mom. (Who hasn’t found one of those?) But as he’s gathering his things to hop on a bus and search for this stranger, a freak lighting strike leaves him unable to hear, although he can still speak.
“Wonderstruck” alternates between Ben’s story and that of a sweet, shy girl named Rose living in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1927. She’s been deaf since birth (as is the expressive newcomer playing her, Millicent Simmonds). But she longs to connect with actress Lillian Mayhew (Haynes regular Julianne Moore), a film star at the tail end of the silent era, with whom she’s obsessed. Rose dares to leave the comfort of her pampered home life to board a ferry for the big city across the Hudson River.
But Rose at least knows someone in Manhattan: her older brother, Walter (Cory Michael Smith), who works at the American Museum of Natural History. Ben, you will not be the least shocked to learn, ends up at the same museum 50 years later—climbing the same stairs, perusing the same exhibits and hiding from the same kind of security guards who suspect both kids are up to no good.
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