Directed by Sebastián Lelio, Netflix’s period film ‘The Wonder’ revolves around an English nurse named Elizabeth “Lib” Wright, who arrives in a rural village in Ireland to “watch” Anna O’Donnell, who has been surviving without food for four months. The elders of the village ask Lib to take care of Anna. Even though Anna is satisfied with her present condition, Lib sets out to find out the reason behind the wonder that makes Anna alive despite not eating anything at all. Along with Lib, the viewers must be intrigued to discover how Anna survives and why she is adamant about fasting. Well, let us share the answers! SPOILERS AHEAD.
How Did Anna Survive Without Food?
Ever since Anna’s eleventh birthday, she started to not eat any food. Still, she has managed to stay alive, much to the wonder of the village folk. Even Lib Wright gets initially convinced that Anna is surviving without food. She starts to feel sympathetic towards the little girl, which leads her to prevent everyone, except for herself and the second nurse, from touching the girl since she doesn’t want the world to treat Anna as an object. Lib even asks Anna’s parents Rosaleen O’Donnell and Malachy O’ Donnell to not touch Anna again. Lib’s decision creates a breakthrough as Anna falls sick soon.
When Lib asks Anna whether she has eaten anything after her eleventh birthday, the latter tells the former that she has only eaten “manna from heaven,” a food God provided for the Israelites as they were traveling through the desert during the 40 years following the Exodus, as per the Bible. Lib connects the same with what Rosaleen has said to her when she stopped the mother from touching or kissing Anna again: “a mother’s kiss is sacred.” Upon doing the same, Lib realizes that the manna that sustains Anna’s life isn’t just a Bible reference but the “sacred food” her mother has chewed and spat into her mouth every time the woman kissed the little girl.
According to the Bible, manna sustained the lives of the Israelites during their desert sojourn. Rosaleen must have made Anna believe that the food she has been spitting into the latter’s mouth is such a divine offering from God to sustain her life rather than the typical food that mere human beings can cook or prepare. The sacredness associated with motherhood must have made Anna believe that God has been serving her manna through her mother as well. Anna’s belief that God has been nurturing her through her mother makes her convincingly say to anyone that she hasn’t eaten any food.
Why Did Anna Fast?
After Lib realizes how Anna has survived “without food,” she urges the latter to put an end to the practice. However, Anna puts her life on the line and adamantly continues her fasting. When Lib asks about the reason behind the same, the little girl tells her nurse that she wants to see a soul released from hell. The soul Anna refers to belongs to her brother Pat O’Donnell. When Anna was just nine years old, Pat introduced “double love” to her. He convinced her that she was destined to be not only his sister but also his wife. As a vulnerable little girl, Anna believed her brother’s words and they eventually got married.
However, Pat got sick soon after marrying Anna and he eventually died. Since Pat was the potential man of the house, his death rocked the O’Donnells, who blamed Anna for their son’s death. After losing Pat, Anna might haven’t been in a position to lose the love of her parents. Rosaleen might have taken advantage of Anna’s vulnerability to make her fast, thinking that the hardships she endures on the Earth will satisfy God to release Pat from the infernos of hell. As Pat’s “wife,” Anna has been forcing herself to suffer thinking that the soul of her husband will get freed from hell and the punishments he has to endure in the realm.
Anna accepts her death and continues her fast for the sake of her love for Pat and most likely to put an end to Rosaleen’s blaming of her. Through Anna’s sufferings, director Sebastián Lelio and co-screenwriter Emma Donoghue, who also wrote the eponymous source novel of the film, show how the female sex has always been forced to sacrifice and pay for the actions of men.
Read More: Is Anna O’Donnell Based on a Real Girl?