Someday, I'll finally watch the DVD of THE NEW WORLD (which I still haven't seen) to get a more complete idea of where TO THE WONDER fits in the scheme of Terrence Malick's fifteen-years-and-counting Second Act as a filmmaker (the First Act produced two masterpieces, BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN; the Second Act has offered up two bloated-length films with sections of brilliance, THE THIN RED LINE and THE TREE OF LIFE).
SPOILER ALERT: TO THE WONDER does have a plot thread (recounted here without the religious/mythic/stylized/nature&humanity overtones Malick and gifted cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki splash onto the widescreen canvas) which carries throughout the entirety of the film: Man working as environmental inspector meets ethereal Femme, brings her and elementary-school-aged daughter from Paris to Oklahoma; Man loses Femme because he Can't Commit and Femme's Visa has expired, Man has affair with Woman he once knew; Man loses Woman because he Won't Commit; Femme (daughter lives now with birth father) wants to come back to America; Man and Femme marry and create child of their own; Man has Committer's Remorse; Femme has one-afternoon stand at an Econo Lodge with neighbor; Man upset over affair; Man and Femme divorce; Femme returns to a cold, grey-weathered France; Man Half-Commits To Something by raising their daughter in Oklahoma.
And there's a fourth major character in the film. I wrote the paragraph below as a comment on a critic's film blog:
If one could cut together footage both in the film and what Malick probably discarded, an interesting Antonioni/Bergman/Bresson-influenced 75-minute feature--about the trials and attempt at renewed faith of Javier Bardem's priest (attending to the lost and broken of Bartlesville, Oklahoma)--would appear.