The review of Wonder Room: the pain is there but you can’t see it in Lisa Azuelos’ (too) glossy film. Protagonist a good Alexandra Lamy.
We can’t stop thinking about it: the main problem de The room of wonders it’s the aesthetics. An aesthetic so cold and flat that it alters the warmth of a screenplay, however, decidedly engaging. And convincing. Convincing, if we consider it as a kind of fairy-tale drama. Nonetheless, the general patina, reminiscent of the Baltic TV films that air on TV in the summer afternoons, creates an imbalance that we cannot ignore. Thus, following the traces of a hypothetical wolf, and following the path of acceptance and hope, the French Lisa Azuelos adapts the homonymous novel by Calmann-Lévy and chooses gentle and light tones for a story of love and maternal love; a love that tries to break anguish and darkness, emerging from the dramatic meaning contained in the words, in the looks, and in the gestures.
Below, as mentioned, the nuances of a fairy tale, in which characters, situations and environments follow one another. “I forgot that life can be sweet”says the protagonist. Yes, because Wonder Room is a film that changes while remaining still. Two threads link the narrative of The room of wonders – often redundant, let’s face it – and link the two centers of the story. As? Through a close-up that extends over landscapes (even over the dance of two splendid whales!) and the future, but which freezes in a cinematic grammar wrapped in an out-of-time and out-of-place patina.
The Wonder Room: All for Love
What then the places are those that Thelma visits (Alexandra Lamy), the protagonist. She visits them as she tries to re-establish a vital connection with her nine-year-old son Louis (Hugo Questel). The boy has never met his father and has a passion for skateboarding. Thelma became pregnant at a young age, and now works in a cosmetics company. They love each other. I am the emblem of the love between a mother and a son. But then she changes everything, in an instant. Louis is hit by a truck. Conditions are desperate, he ends up in a coma.
Brain functions, doctors say, appear to be working. But months go by, and Louis doesn’t wake up. He would need a miracle, one of those “miracles that are done together”. Then, Thelma finds a diary among Louis’ things, called the “book of wonders”. Between scribbling, annotating, and drawing a wolf, there’s a to-do list. “The 10 things to do before the end of the world”. So, driven by a strong maternal sense, Thelma clings to that diary and decides to do those “10 things”, hoping that in the end little Louis will wake up.
A drama… light
Despite a plot with a high emotional impact, Wonder Room almost completely dries up the emotional factor. In itself it may not be a discordant note (and it could in fact be a very precise stylistic note), but it becomes so if the general aesthetics – as mentioned at the beginning of the review – is made flat and artificial. The drama is on the other side; it is coherent and fundamental for the film to be structured, but Lisa Azuelos never dwells on the true emotions of the protagonist. We see them, but we stay away from them. Almost, she disengages from showing too much. The pain moved by an expectation made alive by the “10 things to do” renounces any kind of emotional involvement from and towards the public. Indeed, she lightens the tones and moods, making everything … Zen.
That of Azuelos, written (and it can be seen) also by the author of the book herself, Calmann-Lévy, therefore does not seek the easy tear, but instead pushes on the leitmotifs of a life that should be lived, despite everything. Thelma, always at the center of the film, is a mother who believes in it, who doesn’t give up, who accepts pain by extracting from it the strength to go on, and hope that her son in a coma can somehow be awakened. For this reason, the experiences she faces (a trip to Japan, an encounter with whales, eating hallucinogenic mushrooms) are a sort of path that could lead to new awareness, resulting in the only possible ending. The room of wonders it is a film divided in two: what we see, and what we would like to experience. The two things do not coincide, but the profile of the protagonist remains remarkable, she has been made human by the good Alexandra Lamy.
As written in the review of Wonder Room, the power of the story (perhaps too Zen?) melts under an all too icy and glossy staging, which totally renounces to grasp the many emotions suggested by the screenplay. Great performance by Alexandra Lamy, a mother who does not give up hope for her son in a coma.
Because we like it
- Alexandra Lamy, grande interprete.
- The rental
- … which however remains stuck in a thick patina.
- The twists too Zen…