Todd Haynes isn't a director typically associated with the family film genre, but he does well with "Wonderstruck," bringing the same eye for impeccable period detail that made films like "Carol" and "Far From Heaven" such sumptuous pleasures.
"Wonderstruck" contains two separate storylines told through two distinct styles. The first is set in 1927, and follows a young, deaf girl named Rose (wonderful newcomer, Millicent Simmonds). With an unhappy home life, Rose turns to the movies as an escape, eventually running away in search of a beloved silent film star (Julianne Moore).
The second plotline is set in 1977, and follows Ben (Oakes Fegley, "Pete's Dragon"), a boy whose mother has recently passed away. As if that weren't bad enough, he's struck by lightning, an accident that causes him to permanently lose his hearing. Ben never knew his father, and with only the name of a bookstore as a clue, he sets off to find him.
Working with the great cinematographer Ed Lachman, Haynes shoots Rose's story in black-and-white, in the style of a silent film. Ben's scenes have a burnished yellow glow, and look like they could have been shot in the 1970's. Haynes cuts between the two plots, as both children head to New York City searching for a place they belong, their journeys eventually leading them to the Museum of Natural History.
"Wonderstruck" is a dazzling sensory experience, full of sights, sounds, and textures to create a tactile lived-in world. Based on a book by "Hugo" author Brian Selznick, "Wonderstruck" has the author's familiar same clockwork narrative, hinging on sometimes improbable coincidences. There's a connection between the two stories, and they build to a lovely, emotional climax. Haynes takes his time providing answers, but the journey to get there is often spellbinding.