Todd Haynes's direction in 'Wonderstruck' keeps plot at emotional remove

( PG ) ( Monitor Movie Guide )

The film follows a 12-year-old boy (Oakes Fegley) and a 12-year-old girl (Millicent Simmonds) whose stories are told contrapuntally 50 years apart, his in the vibrantly colored New York City of 1977, hers in the black-and-white New York of 1927.

Mary Cybulski/Roadside Attractions/AP
Jaden Michael (from l.), Oakes Fegley, and Julianne Moore star in 'WonderStruck.'

I was, alas, not wonderstruck by “Wonderstruck,” Todd Haynes’s ambitious but inert movie based on Brian Selznick’s adaptation of his 2011 novel.

It’s about a 12-year-old boy (Oakes Fegley) and a 12-year-old girl (Millicent Simmonds) whose stories are told contrapuntally 50 years apart, his in the vibrantly colored New York City of 1977, hers in the black-and-white New York of 1927. Both children are deaf – she from birth, he after being struck by lightning – and their fates interwine in New York’s American Museum of Natural History. (Simmonds, unlike Fegley, is actually deaf.)

It’s the sort of poetic conceit that needs a filmmaker far more rapt and intuitive than Haynes, whose jeweler’s precision keeps everything at an emotional remove. Grade: C (Rated PG for thematic elements and smoking.) 

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