In The Wonders, teenage Gelsomina is growing up with her family (parents and three sisters) in the Tuscan countryside. Her father is a beekeeper, but Gelsomina is really much more in tune with the bees than he is. In hopes of helping to make ends meet, her father brings in a troubled boy who doesn’t speak (Autistic? Traumatized? We’re never really told.) At the same time, Gelsomina becomes fascinated with a reality TV show about local farmers that is shooting in the area and tries to get her family to take part. (She is especially taken by the glamorous star of the show.) It is a life without luxuries, but one that may mirror the life of the bees that are so central to their family.
While this is a film about family, we see it through Gelsomina’s eyes. She is the one who dreams about something more. She is the one who seems to hold things together when trouble comes. She is, as far as the film goes, the queen bee. She is the key to the family’s future. That future is very much in doubt. They may lose their land and home. They may need to find a new place—a new future. The bees that Gelsomina and her father care for also face perils: a neighbor farmer uses chemicals on his crops that poisons one of the hives, one hive swarms off and Gelsomina must gather them back.
When the TV show and its glamorous host come to the area to showcase (or perhaps exploit) the traditional values, Gelsomina has dreams of a different kind of future, but is that future a real possibility or just a manufactured fantasy?
The ending of the film may not feel all that satisfying because we know the danger of failure is so eminent. We never quite know what will become of this hive/family or if the sweetness that they produce will be enough to sustain them.