Carol director Todd Haynes switches gears and turns Brian Selznick’s imaginative novel Wonderstruck into a masterful work of eye-popping spectacle and symmetry. From the mesmerizing cinematography to the dynamic story-telling, Wonderstruck pushes the envelope in the kids’ film genre.

We meet 12-year-old Ben (Oakes Fegley) and his mother, Elaine (Michelle Williams), in 1977. Ben wants to know about his father, but she is reluctant to tell her curious son about him. Told simultaneously, we also meet Rose (Millicent Simmonds), a deaf girl in 1927 who yearns for something more.

Unhappy with their home situations and with different motivations in mind, the two set off to the Big Apple looking for a place they belong. Rose is on the hunt for her famous mother, while Ben, after losing both his mother and his hearing in separate accidents, is hoping to find out about his long-lost mysterious father. The two stories have a surprising and powerful reveal at the end that links them together.

Julianne Moore and Williams may be the most recognizable names in the cast, but it’s the two young stars – Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds — who really stand out. Moore plays two characters, an actress from the ’20s and a museum curator in the ’70s, and brings the emotion and intensity that she brought in Still Alice. Williams is also quite lovely in her brief appearance (we wish there was more) as Ben’s kind but sad mother.

Fegley and Simmonds both shine in their roles, especially Simmonds, who is deaf in real life. Haynes frames her sequences in black and white and in total silence, making the young actress’ facial expressions and movements all the more poignant. Fegley, best known as Pete in last summer’s live-action adaptation Pete’s Dragon, also does a nice job playing a kid who has just lost his hearing. His character meets another boy, Jamie, played by Jaden Michael, and the two have an endearing rapport as they go on an adventure together in the American History Museum in NYC.

Wonderstruck highlights certain themes about people overcoming adversity, leaving their comfort zones, and chasing a dream or a place to belong. The film cites an Oscar Wilde quote: “We are all stuck in the gutter but some of us look up at the stars,” (and in the Pretenders’ song “Message of Love”) which inspires the wonder. While it can be a little slow at times, Wonderstruck is a magical and visionary work of art that is sure to resonate with audiences for decades to come.