There is a lot of beautiful scenery in “Chasing Wonders” which goes without saying as the film was shot in wine regions of Europe and Australia. Directed by Paul Meins from a screenplay by Judy Morris, the film tells the story of a family of winegrowers who emigrated from Spain to Australia at the turn of this century, and of its youngest member, Savino, who , teenager, returns to Spain. looking for answers about his past.
“Tell the story” is to say it generously, in this case. Despite its neat execution time, “Chasing Wonders” is diffuse and often slack. At a birthday party for a preteen Savino, the boy receives the gift of a telescope, and on the enigmatic instructions of his grandfather (played by Edward James Olmos, who also reads a narrative full of platitudes) s ’embark with a friend to go further rocky terrain, to better observe the night sky. This unleashes his protective and suffocating father (Antonio de la Torre), and a bitter family struggle ensues. This long drawn out fight is one in which you just know that the long intact bottle of wine from the old vineyard in Spain is going to be opened somehow.
Other family members include Paz Vega and Carmen Maura, two mainstays of Spanish cinema, and it’s a pleasure to spend time with them. (It’s also interesting that Savino as a boy and a teenager is played by the same actor, Michael Crisafulli; the scenes in Spain were filmed years after the Australian narrative was captured.)
The daytime landscapes – sprawling vineyards, blue skies, awe-inspiring rock formations – provide unmistakable visual contentment. Some night skies seem digitally over-enhanced, although if they aren’t, more power for cinematographer Denson Baker. The human element of the film does not ultimately serve much more than banality.
In pursuit of wonders
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 26 minutes. In English and Spanish with subtitles. In theaters and available to rent or purchase on Apple TV, FandangoNow, and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.