Florence Pugh, left, and Kíla Lord Cassidy in “The Wonder” 2022. IMDb photo


Jack Nicholson

Sebastian Lelio’s “The Wonder,” directed by Lelio, written by Lelio (“ A Fantastic Woman”) and Alice Birch, from the novel by Emma Donoghue, gives us a rural, dark ballad of Irish faith and mysticism rooted deep in the Irish soul, always a place to avoid.

An English nurse, Elizabeth “Lib” Wright, (Florence Pugh) is summoned to the Ireland of 1862, 13 years after the Great Famine.

Lib, apparently still suffering from a tour attending to the wounded in the Crimean War, arrives in the bleak Irish Midlands, on a rainy, windy winter day, to spend 15 such days examining a young girl, Anna O’Donnell (Kíla Lord Cassidy) who, the villagers say, has not eaten in four months.

“Impossible,” Lib snaps.


Of course in Ireland, even today, miracles of faith occur daily in horse and political races and births, but this is 1862 in Ireland. Not surprised. Wait for it. Be prepared for it.

Nurse Lib is joined by a nun, with whom she will watch the girl in shifts for 15 days. She and the nun are not allowed to feed Anna, only to watch her.

Lib has been summoned by a panel of Catholic men, two of whom are Toby Jones (“Infamous”) and Ciaran Hinds (“Belfast”) who will be most familiar.

Lib, an agnostic medical professional, is no stranger to suffering and death. But here she must follow the will of the ruling villagers and the child’s family to watch the girl suffer and die, or live on and become a local saint.

Lib spends the days doing as she’s told, and the nights putting herself to sleep by performing her own mystical ritual involving an amber lithium-like medication.

Young Anna — sweet, innocent and strangely curious of Lib’s life — shows no sign of suffering, weakness or disabilities from a four-month fast, and insists she lives on only “Manna” from Heaven.


That’s all I can say. To tell you more would be a sin.

“The Wonder” is a miracle of a film. There is nothing more this or any reviewer can tell you. If you’ve read Emma Donoghue’s novel, you already know the secrets. Everyone in this film has one.

There is magic here in the writing, the direction and the breathtaking cinematography of Ari Wegner; the music of Matthew Herbert; editing of Kristina Hetherington; the wonderful casting by Nina Gold; the sets created by Margot Cullen; and costumes of Odile Dicks-Mireaux.

Each of these people deserve a separate Oscar in what they contributed to this film.

Florence Pugh’s Lib Wright is, as in all of her work, astounding. See for yourself.

Kíla Lord Cassidy (“The Doorman”), the young Irish actress who plays the haunted victim who refuses to eat? Equally astounding.


Tom Burke, the newspaper writer who flows in and out of the action, with softness and a tragic story of his own, is a standout.

“The Wonder,” now floating on Netflix, is the best piece of work you’ll see this year, perhaps any year yet.

It’s slow, in the way April and May are slow, in the way they bring you summer. Stick with it.

“The Wonder” streams on Netflix.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.