My Wonderful Wanda is a family drama, taking place almost entirely in one house. The titular Wanda is the Polish carer for elderly German patriarch Josef, as he recovers from a stroke. With shades of The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, a bond develops between the two in this intimate setting that has far reaching consequences for the family as a whole.
Upon watching the trailer, I thought Josef was just a dirty auld man, pawing at the nearest young thing now his wife was older. And he is kind of that, but he’s also at his most vulnerable he’s been in his entire life. Paralysed over most of his body, struggling to regain any mobility, he has returned to the helplessness of a child. And the person caring for him, spending time with him, doing the most intimate of acts, cleaning and caring for his naked and defenceless body, is Wanda. Not his family, not his children, not his wife. All of whom have the time and money to care for him themselves, but have elected to hire someone else to do it. And it makes you wonder about how you could ever hand over such intimacies to a stranger without expecting relationships to form and change.
Josef pays Wanda for an ‘extra service’. Again, at first you can only recoil in judgement, but you can also see a man who, having been near to death and chilled by his sense of his own mortality, is willing to pay any price to feel alive. So much has been taken from him, his independence, his control over his body and his life, and his identity as he saw it. He needs something, something that that screams I’m not dead yet!
Needless to say, this sets in motion a chain of events that challenges Josef’s family to their limits. But ironically, this crisis forces them to confront whether they really are a family or just a group of people who share a name and wealth. In defiance of expectations, this somewhat cold and aloof family warms and strengthens in the heat of conflict. Actually a surprisingly touching film.