Director Todd Haynes (Carol, I’m Not There) returns with this beautifully rendered, semi-silent adaptation from the critically acclaimed 2011 novel of the same name by writer-illustrator Brian Selznick, who also wrote the screenplay.
In 1927, a young girl runs away from home in New Jersey and makes her way to Manhattan, hoping to find someone who was an important part of her past. Fifty years later, a deaf boy befallen by personal tragedy finds a clue about his family that leads him to run away from rural Minnesota to New York. As their adventures lead them to strange new places, where mysteries about themselves and the world seem to lurk around every corner, their stories of discovery reach across years of silence and regret, and find each other through a mesmerizing symmetry driven by wonder and hope.
For Rose (Millicent Simmonds), life under the strict control of her father is typical for a deaf child of her era, kept out of public view with little connection to the world outside of her beloved scrapbook, an elaborate, living work of art dedicated mostly to the career of an actress, Lilian Mayhew (Julianne Moore; Maggie’s Plan, Still Alice). When Mayhew comes to New York to open up a new play, Rose manages to find her way into Manhattan, hoping to connect to the silent movie star. For lifelong Minnesotan Ben (Oakes Fegley), his deafness is recent, the result of a freak accident that occurred shortly after the loss of his mother, free-spirited Elaine (Michelle Williams; Manchester by the Sea, Suite Française). Sorting through her things, he finds a clue about his unknown father—a souvenir book from New York City. He boards a bus, unbeknownst to his bereft aunt, and eventually arrives in Manhattan.
For both young people, their inability to hear and communicate (neither know sign language) makes their quest in the big city fraught with excitement and danger. Their simple goals quickly turn complex as the chaos and confusion of city streets derail them. Despite their maturity and determination, they are easily overwhelmed and reluctant to seek help. Both wind up seeking solace at the American Museum of Natural History, where new and old friends join them in confronting the questions that Rose and Ben so desperately need answered.
“Alive with the magic of pictures and the mysteries of silence, this is an uncommonly grownup film about children, communication, connection and memory.” (David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter)
“Wonderstruck is a visually striking film that’s uncompromising in its approach—less about narrative momentum than about surrendering to the power of images.” (Calvin Wilson, St. Louis Post-Dispatch)
“The performances, including a sweetly sincere and easygoing turn from the deaf actress Simmonds, become the audience’s way into Wonderstruck.” (Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune)