From the Librarian’s Cellar: At the Cinema: The Wonders

A coming-of-age story, The Wonders is as whimsical in its characterization as it is gritty in the subsistence farmland setting of the Umbrian/ Tuscan hillsides.

Twelve year-old Gelsomina’s days are ruled by hard graft on the small isolated farm she shares with her very sweet mother, her over-bearing, and often blundering father, her three younger sisters, and Coco – who works on the farm, though her actual relationship with the family is never clarified. The family survive mainly through their traditional bee-keeping and honey-making business, of which Gelsomina is the resident expert.

Being the eldest, responsibility lays heavy on Gelsomina’s blossoming, adolescent shoulders, particularly because her father, stubbornly, yet barely holding onto his traditional rustic lifestyle, treats her like the son he never had. However, when Gelsomina encounters a TV crew filming a surreal game show, and briefly connects with the fabulously glamorous female presenter, played by Monica Bellucci, her senses are enlightened. Add to that, the arrival of Martin, a young offender on a rehabilitation programme whom her father takes in [for the money] and Gelsomina’s summer becomes an eventful one…

Subtle and gently textured, the film also shines a light on the dynamics of a family clinging to the last vestiges of an impossible rural existence; The Wonders [Le Meraviglie] left me wondering, but in a good way.