Audiences should go see “A Wrinkle in Time” with an open mind and a lot of patience.
The adaptation of the classic sci-fi book is at times frustrating, simply because its narrative is so unconventional. The film doesn’t spoon-feed the plot to audience members, instead making them work to understand, but that’s part of what makes the film so incredible.
“A Wrinkle in Time” blends stunning visuals and experimental storytelling, anchoring them with strong performances and beamingly optimistic themes of love and acceptance to create one of Disney’s most unexpected films in a long time.
The film tells the story of Meg (Storm Reid), a brilliant, introverted girl struggling to cope with the disappearance of her astrophysicist father (Chris Pine) who was studying the ability to travel through time and space. When a trio of celestial beings named Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling), Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey) arrive with the startling news that Meg’s father is alive, Meg and her younger brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) embark on an adventure through the universe to rescue their father from a metaphysical growing darkness known as the IT that threatens to destroy all planets, including Earth.
The story moves quickly and expects the audience to follow along without holding its hand. This undoubtedly makes the film difficult to understand at times. Some elements of the story are so fantastic they require a complete suspension of disbelief. In one scene, Witherspoon’s Mrs. Whatsit transforms into what can only be described as a flying leaf dragon, while Winfrey’s 40-foot Mrs. Which watches on. The visual is equal parts bizarre and awe-inspiring because of the sheer boldness of such an unusual image onscreen. Such scenes require a childlike sense of wonder and lack of skepticism that can be hard to maintain.
However, Reid anchors the film, delivering a nuanced and complex performance as Meg. Meg’s resilience and intelligence are apparent early on as she effortlessly rattles off scientific facts and stands up to the school bully. But beneath Meg’s strengths are anger and insecurity, which are not merely parts of being a teenager, but also a product of her father’s disappearance.
Unlike many other young adult heroines, Meg is not self-confident and flawless, and she’s certainly not one-dimensional. The varied emotional layers of her character help ground a film replete with fantastic creatures and far-off planets, providing an emotional core to the story.
Meg’s character choices are a testament to the skill of director Ava DuVernay, the driving force behind the film’s success and creativity. Part of DuVernay’s visionary approach is the diversity of the cast. Because so many women and people of color appear on screen, it lends a sense of authenticity to the story, affirming that although the screen is populated with whimsical fantasy elements, audience members can recognize the film takes place in the multicultural world we live in.
The film focuses thematically on finding the strength to be a warrior in the face of darkness. The emphasis on courage is shown through Meg’s ongoing fight with the IT – clear symbolism of the fight between good and evil. But the message of the central conflict extends to an internal battle as well; Meg fights to be a warrior for herself, the same everyday struggle many people face when it comes to loving and accepting themselves.
Meg’s insecurities are not just a minor character detail, but become an important component of the plot. Ultimately, the film reveals Meg’s ability to accept her own flaws is key to defeating the darkness, delivering a powerful message of embracing oneself to the countless little girls in the audience.
“A Wrinkle in Time” is intellectually challenging because of its fast pace and metaphysical themes, but the film’s complexities are what make it so intriguing. The film is truly one of a kind – experimental, yet commercial, and it’s easy to see how audiences could balk at the deep thinking the film mandates.
However, for those willing to embark on the mind-boggling adventure, “A Wrinkle in Time” offers a stunning, empowering tale full of wonder, spectacle and love.