You might be surprised to learn that our film industry is actually one of the oldest in the world, dating back to 1896. Yet, South African film carries a stigma… in part owing to our slapstick Leon Schuster candid camera era. Some of our biggest box office hits include Mr Bones and Mr Bones 2! Thankfully, our local films have made incremental improvements over the last two decades with 2018 being arguably the strongest year for South African film yet!
One of the true gems from 2018 was Wonderlus, an Afrikaans film from writer-director Johan Cronje that demonstrates great restraint, balance and maturity in a relatable story of love lost and found.
Weddings have a way of digging up secrets
What starts in a similar way to The Hangover’s next day blur, gradually becomes a case of romance as we discover one puzzle piece at a time. A wedding ceremony falls to pieces: the groom needs to pursue the love of his life, a bride has to untangle herself from the past and a waitress tries to escape the present. Wonderlus is like our very own version of The Big Chill.
The chemicals between us
The chemistry between the cast is a real highlight. Starring up-and-coming talents in Edwin van der Walt, Simoné Nortmann, Stiaan Smith, Francois Jacobs, Mila Guy and Lea Vivier, Wonderlus features some of South Africa’s finest.
Vivier is enigmatic as a free-spirited wedding waitress, her screen presence is considerable and she works well opposite the experienced and earnest van der Walt, who plays the groom.
The mix is fresh and fiery, keeping a healthy amount of underlying relational and sexual tension.
Wonderlus is filmed on a wine estate, using older vehicles, classic wardrobe and fashion, giving it a timeless feel. As the wedding reception goes awry, the rules change and alcohol begins to flow freely. It’s sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll! The soundtrack is amazing.
The visuals are crisp, the camera movement is smooth and the flashbacks aren’t jarring, making for an elegant and wistful affair. You can’t help but see yourself in the characters as events shake up the lives of Lukas, his bride-to-be and everyone at the reception.
Ultimately, Wonderlus is a cool, immersive, moody and soul-searching ensemble romance comedy-drama about following your heart and living in the moment, featuring a charming next generation cast of South African film talent. It’s well worth a watch.