In 1977, following the death of his single mother, Ben (Oakes Fegley) loses his hearing in a freak accident and makes his way from Minnesota to New York, hoping to learn about the father he has never met. A half-century earlier, another deaf 12-year-old, Rose (Millicent Simmonds), flees her restrictive Hoboken home, captivated by the bustle and romance of the nearby big city. Each of these parallel adventures, unfolding largely without dialogue, is an exuberant love letter to a bygone era of New York. The mystery of how they ultimately converge, which involves Julianne Moore in a lovely dual role, provides the film's emotional core. Adapted from a young-adult novel by The Invention of Hugo Cabret author Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck is an all-ages enchantment, entirely true to director Todd Haynes's sensibility: an intelligent, deeply personal, and lovingly intricate tribute to the power of obsession.
"A significant portion of Wonderstruck is the portrait of a deaf girl in 1927, and as such has no dialogue. In these areas the music plays a role similar to the one it played in the age of silent film, but of course the aesthetics are different now. For one thing, Wonderstruck cuts between this story taking place in 1927, and a parallel story taking place in 1977. For another, film music of the 1920s often informed the audience about the twists and turns of the story - Love! Danger! Evil! - Wonderstruck withholds a lot of information from the audience. So while hopefully illuminating the inner lives of the characters, the score avoids conveying too much story. It also eschews sentimentality and melodrama, hallmarks of the silent era. Although both the main characters are deaf 12-year-olds who've lost parents, they don't respond to loss with grief or acceptance. They respond by taking action, always searching. They each follow a trail of breadcrumbs that takes them into worlds of wonder. These two themes - loss and wonder - are touched on repeatedly in the score." - Composer Carter Burwell
"The result is a score that is both richly melodic and profoundly ambient. With graceful dexterity Carter's music interlaces the stories, allowing references to the orchestral traditions of silent cinema to intermingle with the sonic landscapes of 70's counter-pop experimentation. In one stroke arpeggio harps, piano and reeds are propelling Rose's drive from swooning dreamer to runaway, and in the next an eerie fog will rise, accompanying Ben's first steps into a newly silent world. Or listen as a lilting rag piano, familiar to both eras, or infectious layers of percussion, each evoke the innocent fortitude - and playfulness - of childhood. This upfront and inventive use of percussion was something Carter had imagined from the start. You can hear the interpretive freedom he gave certain percussionists with their magic kits of sound, or his foregrounding of legendary soloists like Dame Evelyn Glennie, the world-renowned Scottish percussionist, whose own deafness from the age of 12 has challenged assumed preconditions for musical virtuosity." - Director Todd Haynes