NOW ON VOD! A film seven years in the making, starring the late Carrie Fisher as an artsy good witch named Hazel, Wonderwell is a fantastical film filled with a graphic allure. Set in an Etruscan Italian town in Tuscany, the film, directed by Vlad Marsavin and written by William Brookfield, is a modern-day fairytale. The protagonist is 12-year-old Violet (Kiera Milward), who is thrust into a coming-of-age journey with a mix of adult realities and fantasies shrouded in a bizarre mystery and seemingly caught in the underbelly of nature.
From the onset, with its captivating botanical animation, the opening sets a tone for something unusual but very appealing. Upon meeting Violet, she immediately reveals her witchcraft abilities as she casts a spell to bring her family together by baking cookies. Unfortunately, the sweet treats burn. However, Violet’s special gift is that flowers are interested in her and wrap themselves around her wrist. Violet’s sister Savannah (Nell Tiger Free) is desperate to be a model. This dream is supported by her father, Adam (Lloyd Owen), but not so much by her mother, Chloe (Megan Dodds).
“…magic-wielding heroine must save her sister from Yana…”
In fact, the family’s living in Italy for this purpose, or so it seems. It’s inferred that Adam and Chloe have a bad marriage. However, that storyline isn’t fleshed out enough to understand if that is happening or if fantasy suggests something else, which is a little unconventional for a 12-year-old to understand. Violet leaves her sister’s modeling shoot to explore the town, which leads to the woods, where she meets Hazel. Along the way, she befriends Daniele (Sebastian Croft) on his scooter, who warns her of the bad element, specifically Hazel’s sister Yana (Rita Ora). Violet’s journey begins with Venus flytraps trying to consume her and an enormous Medusa-like mask speaking to her at a well. Despite Hazel’s comforts, she insists Violet see “the other side.” Here, our magic-wielding heroine must save her sister from Yana and a bizarre cult of fashionistas.
Wonderwell must have been an incredible film to make in Tuscany, where an entire town was seemingly at the production’s disposal. Violet walks around empty streets or through parades of people from Renaissance flag throwers and modern-day townspeople. The camera follows her, weaving, bobbing, and panning as need be to capture the glory of the setting. There’s an odd scenario of Violet’s family roaming around and acting disparate, and it, too, looks incredible because of the built-in production quality provided by the town. Fashion, treachery, and rivalry with a sword are all part of the film’s attraction and make for a sumptuous visual feast. Even if the storyline doesn’t quite add up, this is still a feast for the eyes in visual effects, wardrobe, sets, and production design.
A great deal of imagination produced Hazel’s forest home, the visual effects of being trapped in an enormous Venus flytrap, the well, and the functioning of flowers, vines, and water. It’s stunning on the screen, and Violet does hold one’s attention until the end. Wonderwall is an interesting fantasy drama, and what it lacks in narrative cohesion is certainly made up by its imaginative and very conceptual visuals.