The Wizard of Loneliness is a warm, evocative and beautifully realized screen interpretation of John Nichols' 1966 novel about a 12 year-old boy's experiences on the homefront during World War II. When Wendall's mother dies, his father enlists and sends him from California to live with his relatives in a small Vermont town. Uneasy and unimpressed, Wendall uses his intellect and quick tongue to keep his distance in this alien world. Still, the reticent child is warmly received by his grandparents, their son John T., their daughter Sybil, and her five-year-old son Tom. "What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it," observed Rainer Maria Rilke. "In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us."
At first, Wendall plans to save enough money to run away but the friendly forces in this small community slowly chip away at his defense mechanisms. He learns to live with the difficult and to deal with it by taking care of his younger cousin, weathering the attacks of a bully, raising rabbits, puzzling over the ample mysteries of sex and death, keeping a war scrapbook, and learning more about his father's youth. The horrors and bloodshed of World War II are brought home to Wendall and his extended family in the person a battle-shocked deserter. Nancy Larson's screenplay and Jenny Bowen's fluid and graceful direction put the accent on these endearing characters who are trying to find their way through life's labyrinth of shocks and disappointments. Lukas Haas is winning in the lead role while John Randoph, Lance Guest, Lea Thompson, Jeremiah Warren and Dylan Baker are excellent as well. This film will work you over and in the end, like Wendall, you'll find yourself surprised by joy.