It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Signs and Wonders" looks through the eyes of a manic-depressive as the world sends him messages and he hurries to answer them. It shows how exhausting it is to be constantly in the grip of exhilaration, insight, conviction, idealism and excitement--while bombarded all the time with cosmic coincidences. Nobody in the movie calls this man a manic-depressive, but it's as clear as day--or as the bright yellow suit he turns up wearing one morning, convinced it symbolizes his new and improved psyche. As a drama about the ravages of mental illness, the movie works; too bad most of the critics read it only as a romantic soap opera in which the hero is an obsessive sap. They read the signs but miss the diagnosis.
The movie stars Stellan Skarsgard and Charlotte Rampling as Alec and Marjorie, a married American couple living in Athens, Greece. ("It doesn't bother to explain away their foreign accents," complains one critic, although 10 percent of all Americans are first-generation and millions have accents.) She works for the embassy; he has a murky job in finance, and is having an office affair with Katherine (Deborah Kara Unger). The affair has been proceeding satisfactorily for months or maybe years, we gather, until one day Alec, beset with guilt, walks out of his house and uses the phone booth across the street to call back home and confess everything to his wife.
This sudden, dramatic confession marks the start of his bipolar illness. He has become seized with the conviction that vast forces are sweeping through him. He can no longer live a lie. Walking his daughter to school, he joins in her game of counting manholes and clocking various signs and portents in the city streets. For her it's a child's game; for him it becomes an obsession.
Marjorie forgives Alec for his affair. Some time later, on the ski slopes in another country, he meets Katherine again--coincidentally, he believes. This random accidental meeting is for Alec a sign that they were meant to be together, and he leaves Marjorie a second time. Then there is a tense, painful conversation with Katherine, after he explains the significance of their meeting, and why it proved they were predestined to be together. "What if I set it up?" she asks, as a woman who would prefer to be loved for herself rather than as the outward sign of cosmic forces.