"Wonderstruck" fails to convince, so intent is Haynes on banishing loose ends and slotting each coincidence into place. The result is itself a kind of diorama: exquisitely detailed, assembled with infinite care, but lacking the breath of life.
Wonderstruck strikes a curious emotional tone, alternating between suspense and quiet wistfulness, with sudden surges of operatic intensity as the two timelines begin to connect.
Despite what the title suggests, Wonderstruck represents a rare disappointment from master filmmaker Todd Haynes.
In its quieter moments, Wonderstruck occasionally approaches the transcendent, sublime quality Haynes is aiming for-but those times are frustratingly few and far between.
Wonderstruck offers much to occupy the eyes and minds of movie buffs and Haynes fans. Yet there's little room left for insight and emotion in this overstuffed cabinet of curiosities.
Perhaps out of excessive loyalty to author Brian Selznick instead of his own creative instincts, director Todd Haynes creates an extraordinary film that adds up to less than the sum of its parts. But, oh, it gives a lovely light.
Haynes folds in so many eras and visual styles, it's hard not to be dazzled - and why should you resist? - even if, as usual, he keeps your emotions at arm's length.
"I need you to be patient with this story," a key character says to young Ben, and it's good advice for those of us in the audience as well.
Even as he follows Mr. Selznick's narrative lead, Mr. Haynes quietly and touchingly makes "Wonderstruck" his own because the wonder of the film isn't in its story but in its telling.