Director: Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, Izabela Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Mandy Patinkin
Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time. (Source: IMDb)
On first appearances, this looks like the sort of film that could be easily dismissed, and indeed being released in the throes of award season, it could end up being overlooked. Whilst it doesn’t break ground or offer anything world-changing, it is a charming little film which is definitely worth your time.
It isn’t perhaps as saccharine as the trailer and posters would have you believe, and certainly it will resonate with people of all ages and from all walks of life, particularly those who have experience bullying firsthand. It tells the story predominantly through the eyes of the children, and I can see this being an especially conversation-provoking movie between kids and their parents. It is refreshing to see a film challenge the perception that popularity is all that matters at school, and offers the viewpoint that kindness to all is a much more valuable trait.
The cast on the whole are pretty great, with Julia Roberts giving an honest and genuine performance as Auggie’s mum. Her emotional anguish, particularly when first dropping her son off at school will undoubtedly resonate with parents in particular, and her and Owen Wilson make for a believable parental couple, albeit slightly lacking in chemistry between each other. The real star of the show however is Jacob Tremblay. After his incredible performance in Room, he’s proved once again to be an incredible young actor, really able to tug on the heartstrings in this role and meeting all the demands that it places on him with ease. Both funny and heart-breaking in equal measure, it is his performance which anchors this film.
It is interesting that the film chooses to focus on the viewpoints of several different characters and how they relate to Auggie. This keeps it from being too narrow in its focus and is a particularly interesting narrative structure when we see the same events but through different eyes.
Whilst it is hard not to like this film and be charmed by it, it is very predictable and it knows exactly what kind of film it is trying to be. It has a touch of the Pay it Forward (2000) about it, with almost every other line seeming like a soundbite, or something to print off and have framed on your wall, written in beautiful italic writing of course. It was this message-heavy discourse which felt a little alienating at times; it can’t help but give the heightened awareness of this being a “movie” instead of a more naturalistic story.
It is hard to criticise this film however, and ultimately it is an uplifting and charming slice of cinematic escapism, perfect for warming our cold dead hearts this festive season!
I saw this movie and you should too.