There’s a clear sense that something is missing in Wonderwell. Either a scene or two has been cut, or the existing scenes have been rearranged to make the story work. At one level, Wonderwell, which is the late Carrie Fisher’s last performance, is a coming-of-age fantasy drama, and midway through, it also gives a hint that it’s about child abuse and exploitation as well. Any way you look at it, beyond the flaws lies a great story, which, if explored well, can be more than it was in this film. The Alice in Wonderland vibes from this movie are pretty strong, but the film’s strange originality pulls you in. Wonderwell might not be a great film, but it’s worth watching as it was completed in the memory of Carrie Fisher.
Directed by Vlad Versavin, the story of Wonderwell revolves around the life of a young girl named Violet, who visits Italy with her family. Her elder sister Savannah has entered a modeling contest, and because their father knows Yana, the judge of the contest, her selection is almost guaranteed. Violet, with no part to play in this dynamic, drifts into her imagination, wanders around to find a strange forest, and falls into a well, which forces her to see the truth about her family.
Plot Synopsis: What happens in ‘Wonderwell’?
Violet is the youngest member of her family. Nobody really pays any attention to her, apart from telling her to stop her shenanigans. Her elder sister Savannah is the queen of the family. She wants to be a model, and Adam, their father, is apprehensive, but if that is what she wants to do with her life, then he is ready to help. Violet didn’t really care about her sister’s modeling career. What really mattered was getting her family close again. Her mother, Chloe, was always upset with Adam, and there was no warmth in the family dynamic. With only her imagination to help her, Violet baked cookies in the shape of her family members to cast a spell that would make everyone love each other. Nothing seemed to work. Not even her well-intentioned charms. She thought of herself as a witch, perhaps through the movies she saw, but she didn’t know that she was going to meet a real one in Italy, where the modeling contest was being held.
How did Violet meet Hazel?
The family wasn’t close, but thanks to Savannah’s modeling stint, all of the members were at least physically together, if not emotionally. Adam was excited to meet the famous model Yana, who was looking for a new face for her business line. We don’t know what her business was, but Adam approached her as if he knew her. He introduced his whole family to her, but it was Violet who really grabbed her attention. No, it wasn’t as if she wanted her to be the model! She was just 12. Violet was wearing a bracelet with a flower on it. She had the gift of making the flower wrap around her wrist, and this was related to what Yana actually wanted. Savannah got the gig, but meanwhile, Violet got lost in the woods. There she met Hazel, who seemed like a witch from a fairy tale. She had come to transform Violet’s life, which is why she guided her to the ‘wonderwell’. It was a well whose plug had to be removed to find your alternate version of yourself in the reflection. Violet wasn’t too careful, and she fell into the wonderwell, swapped places with her alternate version, and began to see the world’s brutal realities.
What was the significance of Yana and Hazel’s meeting?
It’s odd, but it seems Yana and Hazel were sisters and knew that Violet was indeed special. Hazel was the guardian of ‘Paradiso,’ and Yana was the mistress of ‘inferno’. Both refer to heaven and hell, respectively. Yana was after Hazel’s key to paradise, after which her inferno would take over the world. It’s a classic good vs. evil plot, and Violet seems to be right in the middle of it. Yana had seen Violet wearing the flower bracelet, which might have made her select Savannah to pull Violet into her fold as she was going to be the guardian of the key of Paradise. She had discovered the Wonderwell and was a candidate for receiving the key to Paradiso. When she fell through, she went through some changes. In the previous reality, she didn’t see the signs around her, while in her new reality, she apparently aged a bit, symbolizing that she had gone through puberty.
‘Wonderwell’ Ending Explained: How Did Violet Defeat Yana? What Did The Apple Symbolize?
Yana was after Violet, and she chose to entice her through Savannah. The family had discussed that they would not let Franco, Yana’s photographer, take any indecent photos of her. But even during her first assignment after selection, Franco had taken some photographs that the family did not approve of. Adam and Chloe, instead of canceling the whole thing, bickered and quarreled between themselves without reaching a resolution. Savannah was also an impressionable girl, so she just saw her career ahead and nothing else. If the photographs would move her career forward, she wasn’t going to listen to her unsure parents. They hadn’t really put their foot down to assert their value system, so Savannah couldn’t either.
Violet began to see the reality of her family only after she got trapped in an alternate reality. She had been warned to return to the wonderwell before sunrise the next day. She had the entire day to herself, and the first thing she noticed was that Adam had his arm around Yana. It wasn’t clear if he had already cheated on Chloe, but it made one thing clear: Adam was not a good husband. He blamed everything on Chloe, even the fact that she let Franco take indecent photographs of Savannah. Violet noticed that Yana’s whole setup was just to exploit Savannah. She got worried for her. Thanks to Daniele, Yana’s stepson, she crashed Yana’s late-night party and saved Savannah. It seemed Yana had plans to let Franco make Savannah act in films with explicit content. At first, it looked as if Savannah had given herself over to evil, but when Violet reassured her and reminded her of her love, she decided to escape. Daniele helped, as he was always against Yana. He had also warned Savannah not to go to the party, as she was going to get involved with bad people. Savannah had not listened and had also tried to destroy Violet and Daniele’s emotional connection, yet they came to save her.
Violet, who was heartbroken that her family might never reunite, had actually planned to go back to the original reality, where nobody paid attention to her, nor was she interested in anything other than her own imagination. But the turn of events had matured her as she started to deal with the harsh realities of the world. It was the same as the previous one. It was she herself who had changed. Violet had become braver and more aware of her reality. First, she didn’t let Yana take advantage of gullible Savannah, and when Yana came running to the woods to snatch the key to Paradiso, Violet let her pick the wrong one. Hazel had once mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to have the key to paradise, as she wasn’t even capable of identifying it. Violet instinctively made use of this fact, and she let her have a similar flower bracelet, which ultimately led to Yana’s downfall. It was perhaps her kryptonite. Violet then proceeded to wear the real key and meet Hazel for the last time. Hazel gave her a red apple to bite into.
The apple could mean Violet had fully matured and would never go into her own shell. In Christianity, the bite of the apple symbolizes the fall of man, but here Hazel offers it as a blessing. It might mean that she encourages Violet to embrace her own chaotic life. Violet was determined to go back to her original reality, where everything was happening behind closed doors, and she was happy but in a lukewarm way. In this alternate version, she had to face her fears, be courageous, and fight for her loved ones. The bite of the apple may symbolize that her desire to go back to her easier existence has now fully ceased. She was ready to take on new challenges and be her authentic self. Violet had the key to Paradiso with her, and she chose to go with Daniele and Savannah, happily walking towards the city.