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WONDERLAND

SYNOPSIS:
Three generations of one family lead separate lives that intersect one Bonfire Weekend in London. Elderly Eileen (Kika Markham) and Bill (Jack Shepherd) are trapped in a loveless marriage, scarred by the absence of their son Darren (Enzo Cilenti). Their daughter Molly (Molly Parker) is expecting her first baby with husband Eddie (John Simm); Debbie (Shirley Henderson), divorced from Dan (Ian Hart), lives with her 10 year old son Jack (who Dan has promised to take to a football match), but still enjoys her nights on the town; Nadia (Gina McKee) is lonely and is searching for a soulmate. Ordinary people living ordinary lives. But what is ordinary?

"If cinema's strength is exploration of character, Wonderland is a muscle-bound example. Winterbottom not only explores his characters with accurate observational filmmaking, he adds a visual style with the methodolgy of the shoot: small, tight crew, real locations, real people as extras. But the effect is not driven by a deconstructionist artistic attitude, rather the objective of his journey to Wonderland. He creates a credible, tangible world that is the vital context for his characters to come alive. It is this extraordinary multi-dimensional London - both physically and socially - that helps to convey the story of a long weekend amongst a family and its satellite persons. For me, Wonderland is at once reality and magic; the film has a haunting quality, its characters deeply etched. Some scenes are riveting for their simple but profound drama, others are mesmerising for their cinematic power, where image, sound, music and emotion are fusing in a sort of chain reaction. Wonderland is Wonderful."
Andrew L. Urban

"The complexities of life's beauty, ugliness and unpredictability is canvassed in Michael Winterbottom's Wonderland, a striking snapshot about people and their lives. Couples meeting, others bickering, sisters talking, a pregnant wife waiting, a dog barking, a lonely girl wishing…. sounds a little like anyone's life, doesn't it? Wonderland is an extraordinary work in that it takes the ordinary and makes it feel extraordinary. At work and at play, the extraordinary human condition is revealed by a grainy hand-held camera in documentary approach with no special lighting or professional extras. Where is that man going with the flowers? Does this woman have someone to go home to? Our imagination is captive, as we are drawn not only into the lives of the central characters, but into the world of moody, restless London. We sense the pace, the speed, the rhythms of a city as it sleeps, wakes and pulsates. And within that city are the people whose problems are much like our own – we glimpse their world and share their ups, downs, hopes and disappointments. Accentuated by the pounding intensity of Michael Nyman's distinctive music, Wonderland is a seductive story of urban survival. The ensemble cast, headed by Gina McKee (Notting Hill) blends beautifully into the maze of colours and textures. Surprisingly uplifting and poignant in the true sense, the journey down life's rabbit hole to Wonderland is as curious as Alice's fictitious one ever was."
Louise Keller

"Too many characters and not enough interest in what most of them are doing plagues the first half of Michael Winterbottom's film which, in another era, would have been shot in black and white and called a kitchen sink drama. Nowadays the same ingredients are given widescreen handheld shaky camera treatment and filmed with grainy high speed stock to give that quasi-documentary realism to proceedings. Well and good if you're dealing with riveting subject matter of something like Nil By Mouth or Naked but with the fairly mundane lives being explored here the treatment seems at odds with content. Lovers of the Dogma approach to filmmaking will disagree and when it finally kicks to life in the second half Wonderland does deliver some high impact family drama. Performances are impeccable from a fine cast of Brit thesps. Standouts are TV perennial Jack Shepherd as the dad whose lost his way but not his dignity, Ian Hart as the wayward husband and father whose irresponsibility sets up the co-incidence packed climax and Gina McKee as the lonely girl who specialises in meeting Mr Wrong. One bonus offered by the lightweight production (many of the shoots involved only four or five crew members) is the intimacy of the London locations. Nighttime scenes in crowded pubs and on the streets of Soho give a rich feel for the physical territory these characters inhabit. It's only a shame the emotional territory charted isn't more exciting."
Richard Kuipers

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

See Andrew L. Urban's interview with

MICHAEL WINTERBOTTOM
in Cannes

TRAILER

WONDERLAND (M)
(UK)

CAST: Gina McKee, Shirley Henderson, Molly Parker, Ian Hart, John Simm, Stuart Townsend, Kika Markham, Jack Shepherd

DIRECTOR: Michael Winterbottom

PRODUCER: Michelle Camarda, Andrew Eaton

SCRIPT: Laurence Coriat

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sean Bobbitt

EDITOR: Trevor Waite

MUSIC: Michael Nyman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Tildesley

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: United Independent Pictures

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 4, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video

VIDEO RELEASE: December 6, 2000







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