Todd Haynes is something of a mercurial talent; Wonderstruck may be one of his least seen films, but is something of a wonder. Adapted by Brian Selznick from his own YA novel, Wonderstruck has twin narratives; in the first, set in the silent film era. Millicent Simmonds plays Rose, a young girl who runs away from home to spend time in the city, specifically searching for her mother (Julianne Moore) who is a successful stage and screen actress. In the second, parallel story, Ben (Oakes Fegley) is a 1970’s teenager who is hit by lightning and runs away from home to search for his father. He’s swiftly mugged for his cash, and ends up visiting the same museum that Rose visited decades earlier. There’s no time travel or fanciful narrative devices in Wonderstruck, but the whole picture is suffused by magic, and it’s an ideal transitory text for young people looking for something beyond fantasy. The 1920’s and 70’s eras are beautifully evoked, and the pay-off is lyrical and worthwhile. For such a good movie, it’s a shame that Wonderstuck wasn’t more widely seen, but hopefully streaming will connect it to the audience it deserves.
A breezy take on James Dashner’s Young Adult novel, The Maze Runner is a sci-fi drama that racks up a decent amount of tension around an abstract idea. Thomas (Dylan O’Brian) wakes up to find himself in a community of teenagers, whose only exit from their woodlands camp it through a maze populated by large, alien beasts. Thomas battles to be recognised as a leader in a volatile group including Will Poulter and Thomas Brodie-Sangster, and the scenes in The Maze are well-staged and pretty graphic for young audiences. The finals is disappointing in that it sets up a franchise in a rather obviously open-ended way, but the high production values of Wes Ball’s film make it a cut above most studio product for kids.