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Senior Citizen Kane Club: Wonderstruck

Todd Haynes

Like Hugo, the previous Brian Selznick book to have a cinematic adaptation, Wonderstruck is a love poem to the magic of the movies. Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven, Carol) might seem like an unlikely choice to bring Selznick’s young adult novel to the big screen, but the story’s secrets, broken relationships and loneliness are all themes which the director has a gift for exploring.

Wonderstruck follows the path of two children, 50 years apart, who are linked by a family secret. Rose (hearing-impaired newcomer Millicent Simmonds), deaf from birth, sets out from the stifling constraints of the home she shares with her father in 1927 Hoboken. In 1977, Ben (Oakes Fegley) skips out from the hospital in Gunflint, Minnesota where he is recovering from the freak accident which cost him his hearing. Both children, looking for an absent parent, head to New York City. Rose’s adventure unfolds in crisp black and white like a silent film, with scrawled messages on note pads standing in for intertitles. She wants to reconnect with her mother (Julianne Moore) who relinquished her maternal responsibilities to focus on her acting career. Ben, who has recently lost his mother (Michelle Williams), is following a tenuous paper trail which he hopes will introduce him to the father he never knew.

Edward Lachman’s cinematography brings out the beauty of New York City in both eras, and Carter Burwell’s evocative score pulls the emotional core of the film together, giving it a lovely quality that more than earns its title