500 Days Of Film Reviews Wonder Starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson And Jacob Tremblay
Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, August Pullman becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the wider community all struggle with issues of compassion and acceptance, Auggie's extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove that you can't blend in when you were born to stand out.
Is It Any Good?
A boy dressed as an astronaut jumps up and down on his bed. This, the start of Stephen Chbosky’s gorgeous film, Wonder, is a familiar scene - one that has likely played out in hundreds of bedrooms across the planet.
However, the space helmet has special significance for Wonder’s August Pullman. Born with craniofacial syndrome, Auggie uses the helmet to hide from the world. Of course, this disguise is no longer an option when he starts school.
The stage thus set, Wonder shows us what life is like for Auggie (a superb performance from Jacob Tremblay). Inside he doesn’t feel different and yet, every day, he has to face a world that all too often isn’t able to face him.
If you have seen the film's trailer or read R.J. Palacio's best selling book, it will come as no surprise that Wonder is utterly heartbreaking. Indeed, I felt overwhelmed by emotion from the very first scene and, as the film progressed, additional tears were never far away.
While Wonder explores many emotionally powerful themes (acceptance and difference, friendship and bullying, joy and grief), at no point did I feel manipulated by ruthless, cynical storytelling. In addition to the more moving scenes, Chbosky's film is funny, entertaining and inspiring - it is a pleasure to be in Auggie's often hilarious and remarkably resilient company.
Like its source novel, Wonder is not just about the life of August Pullman. The film also shows us the impact Auggie’s condition has on his parents (wonderfully portrayed by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson), his sister, Olivia (a poignant performance from Izabela Vidovic), his teachers (Mandy Patinkin is brilliant as Mr Tushman) and his friends.
As a result, Wonder features many perceptive and thought-provoking scenes - moments that play perfectly across age groups and may prompt post-film debate. Why does Olivia keep secrets from her parents? How is Jack different from his classmates? What would you do if someone like Auggie came into your life?
It is easy, therefore, to see why Palacio’s book has been studied in schools. Chbosky’s film will also prove an invaluable teaching tool I'm sure. Both have a very special story to tell and both tell it with simplicity, grace and sensitivity.
Both explore how we are all different, how we all have challenges in our lives and, above all, how we should all choose to be kind and compassionate. Choose kind. This is the lesson that lies at the heart of Wonder - and, young or old, it is an important message that we all need to hear.
I watched a preview of Wonder with my family courtesy of the wonderful people from Den Of Geek. The screening started with a book signing and a fascinating Q&A with author R.J. Palacio. Thank you for a wonderful afternoon Den Of Geek!
Have you seen Wonder?
If you have, what did you think of this movie? Let me know by leaving me a comment in the box below or via Facebook or Twitter (@500DaysOfFilm).