Adhering to a similar coming-of-age narrative trope that has served the likes of director Richard Linklater so comfortably over the years, as well as adopting the gimmick of filming the story over the course of a few years in order to earn a little extra authenticity in the performances, Paul Meins’s Chasing Wonders is an ultimately recognisable film. However familiar the film feels though, the British/Spanish/Australian co-production is nonetheless well acted and visually captured with such handsomeness throughout.
Meins, who, rather curiously, has no other production credits to his name, frames the film around teenaged Savino (Michael Crisafulli), a Spanish-heritaged Australian who has come to see his father’s homeland. After this brief plotted set-up we are taken back some years prior where Savino (played by a younger Crisafulli, the film taking on Linklater’s Boyhood novelty by shooting over a five year period) is in a constant battle with his father (Antonio de la Torre), whose angry manner is tainting the otherwise comfortable surroundings that is the lush South Australian vineyard he resides in. The genuine care and concern from his kindly mother (Paz Vega), her parents (Edward James Olmos and Carmen Maura), and his care-free uncle (Quim Gutierrez) and his Australian girlfriend (Jessica Marais) provide Savino the escape he needs from under his father’s governance.
Given that Savino has voluntarily chosen to visit his father’s childhood home at the beginning of the film, we are under the impression that the Judy Morris-penned script will alter their dynamic at some point over the course of Chasing Wonders‘ 90 minute run. Much of Savino’s existence is living in fear of what his father might say or do, and though these scenes of violent emotion are well acted (de la Torre is particularly believable in his depiction of unbridled rage) they do start to wear thin, especially as we can partially see them coming after each sequence that involved Savino in some type of defying act; having a few sneaky sips of wine and unintentionally injuring his friend on a late night excursion being two such prime examples.
Where Chasing Wonders is better is when it allows the other family members to manage the spotlight, with the relationship between Savino’s grandparents being of substantial regard. Olmos and Maura have such a tender chemistry, and whether they’re playfully bouncing off each other, expressing their love to Savino, or standing up to his volatile father, theirs is a dynamic that consistently elevates the film whenever it skirts by on predictability.
Whilst occasionally downtrodden and in danger of buckling under a cyclical mentality of plot repetition, Chasing Wonders ultimately wins its audience over with a visually sumptuous pallet, an endearing turn from the young Crisafulli, and an assertive positive family temperament.
Chasing Wonders will be screening in cinemas and digital HD internet, cable and satellite platforms in North America from June 4th, 2021. An Australian release is yet to be determined.