[box cover]

Wonderland

Forget Bridget Jones. If you're interested in some Brits with truly complicated emotional lives, look no further than Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland. This quiet, wistful film, which was named the Best British Independent Film of 1999, tells the story of one weekend in the life of a London family. It's an episodic collage of personal highs and lows that succeeds because of its realism — it taps into feelings most viewers have had to deal with at one point or another, from rejection and loneliness to joy and affection. That those emotions come across almost painfully clearly on screen is thanks to Winterbottom's direction and Laurence Coriat's subtle script and strong characters. Sisters Nadia (Notting Hill's Gina McKee), Debbie (Topsy-Turvy's Shirley Henderson), and Molly (Molly Parker) are all at different stages in their lives — Debbie is a blowsy single mother, with a nine-year-old son and a roguish ex-husband; Molly is married and nervously expecting her first baby; and Nadia is single, lonely, and looking, drifting through a series of more-or-less empty encounters with blokes she meets through a telephone personals service. The sisters' mother, Eileen (Kika Markham), is a faded, frustrated woman who sleepwalks her way through her marriage to their father, Bill (Jack Shepherd), a weak man she claims to despise, finding her only solace in playing a bingo-like game and in poring over scrapbooks filled with pictures of happier times. Over the course of three days, the family — and their various friends, partners, and acquaintances — deal with some minor events and several major ones, somehow managing to keep their relationships with each other more or less intact. In other words, they struggle through life just like any other group of people, doing their best to find compassion for each other while still trying to protect themselves and the interests closest to their heart. All this, combined with its haunting score and grainy, blue-tinged photography, make Wonderland a very poignant, melancholy film; although it ends on a happy note, it's hard not to think that they'll all just have to go through it again next weekend. Wonderland plays well on Universal's DVD release — the 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is as good as can be expected, given the quality of the film stock used, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is crisp and clear. There really aren't any extras to speak of, just the theatrical trailer, scene selection, a table of contents insert inside the keep case, English captions, and French subtitles. But this isn't a movie that needs lots of bells and whistles. Wonderland is all about knowing that everyday life — and the search for contentment — is more than exciting enough on its own.
—Betsy Bozdech



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