Director: Michael Winterbottom
Screenwriters: Laurence Coriat

Institute History

  • 2000 Sundance Film Festival


Why would a master of narrative like Michael Winterbottom abandon plot contrivances and heroics for a mood piece breezily played by an ensemble cast? To tear your heart out, that’s why. In Wonderland, Winterbottom leads us on a round-robin of intimacies that ties together a clan of Londoners as they undergo the banalities and crises of everyday life.

One woman courts romance through personal ads in an endless sequence of first and second dates. Another cares for her young son, tussling with an ex-husband over his weekly visits and irresponsibility. A third is very pregnant. She’s in love with her husband, and he with her, or so it seems. Meanwhile, an old man and woman live locked together in animosity, as she bitterly rejects his every effort and he pines for a long-lost child. Slowly, entrancingly, these separate lives intersect in a web of relationship that’s tenderly familiar, utterly unpredictable, and exquisitely acted.

In a film that might well mark his coming of age, Winterbottom shines a laser beam into the human heart, pinpointing the centers of loss, yearning, and unhappiness. Wonderland reveals a safety net cast over society’s postmodern bits—a net of irresolute particles which, connected or not, constitute family.

With the anti-sentimental simplicity of Ken Loach or early Mike Leigh, Winterbottom uses real South London locations to make the working class look fresh again. His back-to-basics moviemaking might lead some to mistake it for a “Dogme 95” manifesto, but Wonderland reminds us that the Danes have nothing on the English.

— B Ruby Rich

Screening Details

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