Wonderstruck

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Rated: PG for images of children in peril.

Theater: Uptown

 

“Wonderstruck” is so meticulously constructed it feels like magic. And yet, the movie doesn’t entirely cast a spell.

Parallel stories follow two deaf runaways 50 years apart who sneak off to New York City. One story, in black and white, is a silent film, while the other channels the bright colors and funky music of the 1970s. At one point, both children end up at the Natural History Museum, where they each place a tiny hopeful hand on the same ancient meteorite.

The adaptation of the young adult novel by Brian Selznick, who also wrote the screenplay, dives into big themes. Ben (Oakes Fegley), in 1977, and Rose (Millicent Simmonds), in 1927, feel lonely and misunderstood, and both are mourning recent personal losses.

Ben, who just lost his mother in a car wreck, is searching for the father he never knew. After finding a bookmark with a personal message among his mom’s belongings, he’s convinced it will lead to his dad. Rose, whose strict father (James Urbaniak) makes her life a nightmare, sets out in search of her favorite movie star, Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore).

The approach is inventive. And director Todd Haynes clearly cares about details. We follow his characters as they wander around streets, bus depots and museum halls. Although we get to soak up the atmosphere, this languorous approach sometimes produces a plodding feel. Other times, the pace gets too speedy, particularly at the start, when the film jumps between Ben and Rose so frequently, it’s hard to become emotionally invested in either one. For all the story’s cosmic echoes across the ages, the timing just feels off.

Stephanie merry, Washington Post

Dina

⋆⋆½ out of four stars

Unrated; contains some thematic material concerning sexuality and violence.

Theater: Lagoon

 

Dina Buno is a lively, tartly good-natured middle-aged woman with a devoted fiancé named Scott and a disposition of uncommon candor and self-awareness.

Dina is also autistic. And as the indomitable title character of Antonio Santini and Dan Sickles’s intimate documentary, she offers an irresistible subject: Funny and forthright, she allows the filmmakers into her life with startling aplomb.

Focusing on the sometimes fraught weeks leading up to Dina and Scott’s wedding, the film judiciously addresses the events of Dina’s past that led her to this moment, intercutting those revelations with scenes of Dina coping with her emotional and cognitive difficulties, as well as obstacles faced by Scott, who is preparing to leave his parents’ home for the first time.

There are moments in “Dina” that invite viewers to wonder whether we aren’t veering into voyeurism, such as when Dina presents Scott with a copy of “The Joy of Sex” and proceeds to have a conversation about the contents. But to their credit, the filmmakers frequently film Dina and Scott from a distance, giving them dignity in the form of space and environmental context.

“Dina” is valuable as an honest, touching, ultimately optimistic portrait of people embracing intimacy and honesty the best way they know how. Those struggles might not be conventional, but they’re utterly universal.

ANN HORNADAY, Washington Post

 

Walking Out

⋆⋆⋆ out of four stars

Rated: PG-13 for scenes of peril.

Theater: Excelsior

 

Even when its plot starts to sag, “Walking Out” remains beautiful to watch.

The film — nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance — revolves around a hunting trip by a father, Cal (Matt Bomer), and his estranged 14-year-old son, David (Josh Wiggins). There’s friction between them as they reunite for a trek into the Montana mountains, where they sustain injuries that force them to rely on each other as they struggle to reach safety.

The story line is well-trod, and reminiscent of “The Revenant” and several other films that take place in rough country. Yet Bomer and Wiggins are proficient with the sparse dialogue (written by filmmaking brothers Alex and Andrew Smith from a short story by David Quammen), and with situations that are occasionally contrived.

Although it’s not high praise to describe the movie as watchable, it’s no rebuke either. The biggest star here is the location. The survival story, you’ve seen before. The scenery, you can’t see enough of.

KEN JAWOROWSKI, New York Times