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Starring: Kika Markham, Gina McKee, Molly Parker
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Rated: MA

WE have to hand it to the Brits! They do not mind spending significant amounts of money to make films showing how dreadful life is for the working class in contemporary London.

Wonderland tells the story of four days in the lives of three sisters, Nadia (Markham), Molly (McKee) and Debbie (Parker). These are not ordinary days. Nadia is desperate for a relationship and goes out with respondents to her lonely hearts advertisement; Molly has a baby, her husband quits his job and he leaves home; Debbie, a single mother, throws herself into an affair with a new boyfriend while her 12 year-old son runs away. Meanwhile Darren, the sister’s brother, is hardly speaking to anyone in the family and their parents’ 30-year marriage is as desolate as one could imagine.

The acting in Wonderland is seamlessly realistic and the humanity of each of the characterisations evokes sympathy. The film is littered with the sister’s addictions and compulsions. It is hard work surviving in Wonderland. Toward the end of the film, however, family loyalty, honesty and making the world a better place for the next generation win out. Winterbottom goes for a docu-drama style and while in the main it suits the story, the handheld camera is overdone. Michael Nyman’s lush music is laid over the street scenes and adds greatly to the film’s irony.

This is a film about women under pressure. All the men are docile, liars, absent, irresponsible or unable to cope. Lawrence Coriat’s script does not canonise the women, but they are left to pick up the pieces, to make the decisions and pay the price.

The baby born in this film is called Alice – Alice in Wonderland. The reference is telling.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice had to face up to the world as it is, encounter tough and deceptive characters, hold on to hope in the face of disappointment and illusions and come to realise she could not live a fairytale. None of this allusion is lost in this film.

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