Signs & Wonders

"Very Good"

Signs & Wonders Review


Jonathan Nossiter made his fictional writing and directing debut in 1997 with the critically acclaimed Sunday, a story of two lonely strangers who find comfort in each other for a single day.

With Sunday, the camera watches the characters with a sympathetic eye to the influence of their environment. The characters seem shot without the effects of makeup, and the camera gets so close up that one can almost imagine having a conversation with them instead of merely watching a screen. Lies are acceptable because the person receiving them doesn't mind. The two protagonists are happier for having shared that day and this evokes an infectious warmth.

Signs & Wonders (which Nossiter also helped to pen) is more of a technical experiment than a study of human interaction. The camera and music create and disturb the environment at will. There are no warm fuzzies or comforts, either with the characters or their environment. The audience is placed in a voyeuristic role, as the camera rolls outside a scene by shooting through holes in walls and windowpanes, among other devices.

It is an ambitious departure from the simple Sunday. Alec (Stellan Skarsgård, Time Code, Ronin) has been married to Marjorie (Charlotte Rampling, The Wings of a Dove) for seventeen years. They have two children. He has an affair with a co-worker, Katharine (Deborah Unger, The Hurricane, Sunshine) but breaks it off after admitting the sin to his wife. Shortly thereafter he finds he is attuned to strange phenomena, such as a neon light resembling the marks on Katharine's scarf. After meeting Katharine again by accident, he leaves his family for her, and finds he has been manipulated into the relationship. He attempts to win back his family, only to find that they have rsetarted their lives happily enough without him. His efforts at reconciliation erode his dignity and common sense to the extent that he can no longer be a whole person without something external to provide direction.

It is admirable for a director to attempt imposing his style on different genres. As in Sunday, Signs & Wonders takes place in the specifically set universe of its characters. Time elapsed is based on the journey instead of by a clock. Characters are three-dimensional and crisply written so that one can imagine their actual likeness beyond the screen.

Unfortunately, the film concentrates more on spectatorship than audience interaction. The soundtrack gets heavy-handed, attempting to keep a viewer on their toes, and the camera stays too jittery to disallow emotional involvement. In brilliant contrast, dialogue is a tool used only when necessary. However, several impressive plot surprises are slowly folded into the story instead of rushing out for shock value, and are more stimulating as a result.

Though at the mercy of camera angles, the characters are interesting to watch because the acting is remarkable. Skarsgård and Rampling play off each other well, both as stable marriage partners and as ex-lovers. Even their children get to shine with intelligence and understanding. This is not a crumbling family with mundane difficulties that can easily be resolved in a two-hour film. Instead it is a portrait of people who repeatedly try to redefine their constantly changing reality amidst unfounded superstitions and unexplainable circumstance.

Despite its technical focus, Signs & Wonders is a rewarding experience if watched through the end. The camera is active enough to keep adrenaline flowing and character interaction upholds a questioning intrigue throughout. One might wish that Nossiter stuck to a simpler human-based story, but everyone should be allowed at least one chance to test their talents.



Signs & Wonders

Facts and Figures

Run time: 60 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 23rd January 2000

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 7.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer:

Starring: as Alec, as Marjorie, as Katherine

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Wind River Movie Review

Wind River Movie Review

After writing the superb Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan moves back into...

The Vault Movie Review

The Vault Movie Review

Filmmakers Dan Bush and Conal Byrne attempt a mash-up of a frantic heist movie with...

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

Goon: Last of the Enforcers Movie Review

The 2012 Canadian comedy Goon was one of those surprising little films that snuck up...

Detroit Movie Review

Detroit Movie Review

After The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal reteam to...

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Logan Lucky Movie Review

Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...

American Made Movie Review

American Made Movie Review

An enjoyably freewheeling tone and Tom Cruise's star wattage combine to make this an entertaining...

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Movie Review

It's been a decade since Al Gore's wake-up-call documentary won the Oscar. And here he...

Advertisement
The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

The Hitman's Bodyguard Movie Review

It really doesn't matter that this movie is utterly ridiculous, because the central pairing of...

Final Portrait Movie Review

Final Portrait Movie Review

A relaxed, amusing true story about noted Swiss painter and sculptor Alberto Giacometti, this sharply...

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.