Chilean director Sebastián Lelio’s latest film, “The Wonder,” makes its streaming debut on Netflix this week, premiering Wednesday. “The Wonder” is co-written by Lelio, Alice Birch and Emma Donoghue, on whose 2016 novel the film is based. The film takes place in 1862 Ireland, where an English nurse, played by Florence Pugh, is tasked with watching a young girl, Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy) who has not eaten for four months, claiming to be nourished by “manna from heaven.”
The film is an unsparing period piece, reckoning with the meaning of faith and family in the wake of the enduring trauma of the Great Famine in the 1840s. But it is also a curious and unexpectedly self-reflective film about the stories that we tell ourselves and others and the power of belief. Powerhouse young actor Pugh is excellent, as usual, and the supporting cast, which includes Tom Burke, Toby Jones, Ciarán Hinds and Niamh Algar, make up the strong ensemble.
Before, or after, streaming “The Wonder” on Netflix, you might want to check out some of the other films by the creators, especially Pugh, who has already had a big year with the splashy “Don’t Worry Darling” (on HBO Max), and she’ll also voice Goldilocks in the upcoming “Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.” Pugh has already built an impressive resume at the age of 26, and there are plenty of other Pugh deep cuts to enjoy along with “The Wonder.”
Her breakout role came in William Oldroyd’s 2017 film “Lady Macbeth,” a fierce and ferocious performance for such a young actress, playing the wife of an older aristocrat, who finds ways to enjoy her time as the lady of the manor. Stream it on the Roku Channel, Kanopy, Tubi and Amazon Freevee.
She showed her range in the 2019 film “Fighting with My Family,” about real-life English WWE superstar Saraya, aka Paige. The family comedy, directed by Stephen Merchant and produced by The Rock, is available to rent on all platforms. She also demonstrated her physicality, and her humor, in the 2021 Marvel movie “Black Widow,” playing little sister Yelena to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. Stream it on Disney+.
Pugh had a big 2019, scoring an Oscar nomination for her performance as Amy in Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” (available to rent on Flix Fling, or for purchase on iTunes/Amazon). She also gave one of her best, and most terrifyingly complex performances to date in Ari Aster’s “Midsommar” as the grieving Dani, who travels with her boyfriend to Sweden for a summer solstice celebration, and finds herself wrapped up in the insular, traditional community. Stream “Midsommar” on Showtime or rent it elsewhere.
“The Wonder” novelist and screenwriter Emma Donoghue also had quite a success with her novel “Room,” which she adapted for the 2016 film, earning her an Academy Award nomination. The film launched the career of Jacob Tremblay, and snagged star Brie Larson the Best Actress Oscar that year. Stream it on HBO Max or Kanopy.
Lelio’s 2017 film “A Fantastic Woman” is also an Academy Award winner, for Best Foreign Language Film. Featuring an incredible performance by Daniela Vega, “A Fantastic Woman” is available to rent on all platforms.
Additionally, Lelio is among a handful of directors to remake one of their own films. He remade his 2013 Chilean film “Gloria” (streaming on Roku Channel and Kanopy), starring Paulina Garcia, into the 2019 American film “Gloria Bell” (streaming on Showtime and Kanopy), starring Julianne Moore. While both are delightful, the edge goes to the original. And don’t miss his 2018 erotic drama “Disobedience,” starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as a pair of orthodox Jewish women engaged in an illicit affair. Stream it on Netflix or Kanopy.