Review: Wonder Boy

Evocative and moving, Wonder Boy depicts the life of fashion designer Olivier Rousteing, and has recently made the jump over to Netflix.

Review: Wonder Boy

Directed and produced by Anissa Bonnefont, this 2019 documentary is a moving and intimate work that narrates a very personal journey for Rousteing, in the midst of the glitz and glamour of his high-profile fashion designer lifestyle.

When I watched Wonder Boy, I was surprised by the angle it took and the very personal focus it adopted. As opposed to what I anticipated, (an almost biographical telling of his career and route to success) the film focused mostly on a very personal and profound part of Rousteing’s life. Wonder Boy guides the audience through the painful yet hopeful process of finding Rousteing’s biological parents – a journey Rousteing begins to embark upon at the start of the film.

After being adopted at the age of 1, Rousteing was brought up by a French couple in Bordeaux. In the film, Rousteing’s love and strong bond with his parents and grandparents is very apparent. He is presented as well-grounded and family-orientated, despite his overwhelming success as a designer.

At the same time, he expresses sadness and confusion due to not knowing the identity of his birth parents and moreover his own identity. The documentary sees Rousteing – at the age of 32 – searching for his roots and biological background through a substantially long and arduous process. There is an immense longing in him to know about his birth parents which leaves him unsatisfied and feeling quite lost in the world. The film is often melancholic in tone throughout the journey he is taking.

“As long as I don’t know who I am, I can’t love myself”

His search is an emotional time for both Rousteing and his family. When going through a document of information about his birth parents, he cries a lot. The scenes in which he cries are real and very human. He doesn’t try to hide his fragility and vulnerability in those moments. The filming is candid and raw as we see the impact this experience is having on him.

Olivier Rousteing has been the creative director of Balmain – a luxury, French fashion company – since 2011. In the film, we see his intense focus, amazing talent and passion for his job. He appears to spend the majority of his life working and is deeply invested in what he does.

Some of the many elements of his day-to-day work are shown in the documentary such as designing and drawing, cutting fabrics, dressing mannequins and models and, of course, the fashion shows as well. The presentation of his job is a full picture of the frantic and stressful moments as well as the amazing highs. The creative process is captured well in the collage of shots that makes up Wonder Boy.

With many high energy, exciting shots of Rousteing’s professional life, an outlook of glitz and glamour is created. Beneath the surface, though, we come to realise Rousteing is quite alone and insecure.

Wonder Boy is interlaced with quiet, contemplative shots of Rousteing on his own, carrying out mundane activities in virtual silence, such as shaving and eating dinner alone. These moments of stillness and silence create the feeling of his loneliness. At one point in the film, he talks of the “sense of solitude” which only “intensifies” when he gets home.

A negative to draw attention to with this film would be that it has a slow pace and not much of a story arc. Some viewers may become disinterested and feel that the film is lacking in enough action or storyline to keep their engagement.

Overall, Wonder Boy is an evocative and moving piece that really makes you think about things like identity and family. As well, you get to see some of the most brilliant and bold fashion designs!

Header Image Credit: Still from Wonder Boy / Netflix


Daisy Mellor

Daisy Mellor Contributor

Hello my name is Daisy Mellor. I love writing about the arts, culture and literature and have a passion for dance and theatre performance myself!

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