“Wonder” is based on the 2012 bestselling novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio. The story follows August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a fifth-grade boy with a facial disfiguration due to a rare medical deformity. After spending most of his life homeschooled, his mother (Julia Roberts), deciding that her son needs to experience the real world, enrolls Auggie in the Beecher Prep Middle School. At first, he’s timid towards the idea, but after some encouragement from his mother and father (Owen Wilson), he agrees to go. Unfortunately, fitting in is an arduous task when you’re the one who stands out in a crowd. Making friends and dealing with bullies is going to prove difficult for little Auggie, but with the support of his parents, and his sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), he’ll show them that there’s no shame in standing out when you were born to shine.
If I could play the devil’s advocate, I admit that I originally had little interest in this film. With only a brief summary of the plot alone, my hopes weren’t all that high, despite the story’s good intentions. Because let’s be honest for just a moment, how many times have we read or seen a story with the lessons, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” or, “It’s what’s inside that matters”? All important messages certainly, but messages that have been done in hundreds of stories: “The Elephant Man,” “Mask,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” and the list goes on. Then again, given the state of current events, it’s a lesson people seem to be forgetting. Despite my skepticism, however, “Wonder” proved to be a remarkable and uplifting film that does justice to these messages.
While I’m certain changes were made from the original novel, the minor alterations do not take away from the overall flow and feel of the narrative, or to be more accurate, narratives. While Auggie is the main star and focus of the story, he isn’t the only character we follow. The overall film takes time out from one narrative to offer another view with a different character. In one part of the story, we’re following Auggie as he explains his thoughts and experiences in school, while in another we’re following his older sister Via as she gives her own narration regarding her feelings of neglect. What I loved most about this is how real the narrations felt. They don’t sound like the characters are just reading lines from a script, they feel real and authentic, like we’re actually hearing their thoughts; which only serves to humanize the characters.
For such a young boy, Jacob Tremblay does a beautiful job portraying August Pullman. Keep in mind that the young star is trying to portray a timid and depressed character, while working with a large amount of make-up and effects that went into producing his disfigured face. It’s something even the most experienced actors have struggled with, but Jacob makes it work for his character. While there are other stars who deserve praise for their efforts, the one who stands out from the rest is the lovely Julia Roberts. Fans of her work will absolutely adore her in the role of Isabel Pullman, Auggie’s mother. If I could put her performance into one word, it would be: “flawless.” A superb job for her role as a tired but loving mother trying to raise two children, one who possesses feelings of neglect, while the other possesses a disfigured face who fears persecution and maltreatment from his fellow students.
“Wonder” is rated PG for mild language and thematic elements including bullying. Despite the rating, whether or not this film will appeal to your child is a matter of perspective. If you’re looking for an uplifting film with a strong story that shows children it’s okay to stand out and be different, or show them how wrong it is to bully others for their imperfections, then “Wonder” will be a good choice for them. With or without children, however, this is a film even adults will enjoy for its presentation, delivery, and inspiring story with a strong positive message. Which is why the final score for “Wonder” is an 8.5 out of 10.
Marco Island resident and avid moviegoer, Matthew Mendisana is a Lynn University alumnus. While he possesses a bachelor’s degree in science, it’s the arts that attracted his attention. In his four years at Lynn, Matthew managed to achieve Magna Cum Laude status, earn three publications in the Lynn University magazine, make a short documentary featured in the university’s Film Festival, and created a radio PSA that was later broadcasted overseas.