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The Independent Critic

Carrie Fisher, Kiera Milward, Rita Ora, Nell Tiger Free, Sebastian Croft, Megan Dodds
Vlad Marsavin
William Brookfield
96 Mins.
Vertical Entertainment

 Movie Review: Wonderwell 
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When Carrie Fisher died in 2016, she'd been experiencing a creative renaissance of sorts largely led by her return to the Star Wars films including a planned key role in The Rise of Skywalker. 

Alas, of course, it was not to be. 

At the time of her death, Fisher was also working on this film, Wonderwell, a curious little family drama/fantasy set in Italy that had wrapped shooting only a few weeks before her death and spent the last several years in sort of a creative and cultural limbo. Finally resolved of its unresolved VFX issues and having survived intact a certain global pandemic, Wonderwell finally arrives with Vertical Entertainment for what will most assuredly be a limited release before curiosity seekers and Fisher diehards finally give it some attention via streaming platforms. 

In the film, Fisher plays Hazel, a kind witch who lures young Violet (Kiera Milward) into another realm that kinda sorta feels like a working class Alice in Wonderland. Rita Ora is here as Yana, an evil villainess whose main purpose here seems to be giving evil looks and spouting nonsense. 

Adapted from his own short story, William Brookfield writes a story here that constantly screams out that we ought to be enjoying this endeavor yet it never actually becomes enjoyable. Shot rather nicely by Kenji Katori in an almost impossible to ruin Italian setting, Wonderwell is a confusing mishmash of family drama/fantasy tropes that never really come to life here. I never really hated Wonderwell. I just never really cared at all. 

Fisher is actually the highlight here as she's easily game for the film's infinite possibilities. Sadly, however, she's really not what I'd consider to be a major player despite clearly being given top billing here. However, the screen lights up anytime she's on it. 

The dialogue here never really makes sense and at times Wonderwell suffocates beneath an ensemble struggling to make any sense of it at all. A first-time filmmaker, Vlad Marsavin admirably tries to make it all a cohesive, winning family film. It simply never works. Other than Fisher's mostly winning performance, the acting here is rather hit-and-miss and Ora's really given so little to do here that I may have flashed back more than once to her 50 Shades appearance. It's not that she's not gifted - she is. This simply doesn't work. 

Ultimately, Wonderwell is more like underwell and this ambitious but ultimately unsatisfying motion picture joins a long line of disappointing final films for otherwise truly gifted actors and actresses who left us far too soon. 

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic