When it uses intentionally choppy editing, hand-held cameras and grainy film stock, Michael Winterbottom’s London drama “Wonderland” has the feel of a documentary. This is fitting, as the virtually plot-free film is often as uninteresting and slow-moving as real life.
But then there are other times when Winterbottom uses different editing techniques and puts the camera on a tripod (the film remains grainy), and actually begins to make you feel something for the three sisters and their parents who are at the center of the movie.
The most engaging scenes, in fact, are ones in which dialogue is absent, replaced with gorgeous, tuneful music by Michael Nyman (“The Piano,” for which he won an Oscar). The music starts with a simple theme tapped on a piano, then begins to soar into full orchestral accompaniment, all while the characters are silently enduring some relationship ordeal or other. It’s a testament to the power of film music that a movie’s score can actually make a boring movie seem interesting.
Bill (Jack Shepherd) and Eileen (Kika Markham) are trapped in a loveless marriage. Their son, Darren (Enzo Cilenti), has left home; his three sisters remain in London and have fleeting contact with each other and their parents. There’s Debbie (Shirley Henderson), a partying, chain-smoking single mom; Nadia (Gina McKee), a waitress who cruises the personal ads desperately seeking love (and almost, heartbreakingly, finding it); and Molly (Molly Parker), extremely pregnant and in love with her husband, Eddie (John Simm), a sweet man who nonetheless has problems with responsibility.
We spend a weekend with these characters and a few others, seeing their struggles and strifes in a manner that unfolds very slowly and then reveals … nothing. Whatever “Wonderland” is trying to say, it’s not saying it clearly enough. Nonetheless, the whole is better than the sum of its parts: The outstanding music and convincing performances make me remember the film as being better than it actually was.
B- (1 hr., 48 min.; )