Wonder, starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, and Daveed Diggs, rated PG
–Review by Ashley Linne
Wonder tells the story of 5th grader August “Auggie” Pullman, based on the bestselling book by the same title. Auggie was born with mandibulofacial dystosis, also known as Treacher Collins syndrome—facial differences that required numerous surgeries and leave him dealing with stares and bullying. This movie is a must-see considering the climate of bullying that pervades our society among children and adults alike.
Big-budget, heartwarming, family films seem to be few and far between these days unless they’re animated features. I was a little concerned that Wonder would come off as kitsch, but it was quite well done. The characters were multidimensional, with main characters having at least a few flaws and antagonists having redemptive moments. The plot felt a little rushed, but I think that tends to happen sometimes with film adaptations of books, and the movie covers an entire school year.
The story is told from a few different character’s perspectives, but mostly through Auggie’s. There are some painful moments that highlight the reality of daily life for those who are different and their families. It also features a parent-teacher conference that will have all my teacher friends groaning and all my parent friends hoping they are never “those” parents!
I liked the metaphor of “seeing” that was woven throughout the film. Auggie wants the world to see him for who he is, illustrated perfectly with the camera obscura science project he and his friend make later in the movie. Auggie’s sister, Via, wants to be noticed and seen by her parents. In a few places the perspective theme is illustrated through space and solar system metaphors; Auggie’s space helmet, his fantasies about going to the moon, and Via’s comment that their family’s world “revolves around the son.”
There are several other themes running throughout the film, most of which are succinctly summed up by different characters in great lines such as, “If you have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind;” “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out;” and “Be kind, because everyone you meet is facing a battle.” Auggie’s teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs) calls lines like these “precepts.” One of my favorites that Mr. Browne calls out is, “Our words are our monuments.” I wonder how much Facebook would change if we all agreed to take that one precept into account.
The film tackles several big social issues at once, but did it rather well in my opinion. I didn’t find Wonder to be preachy, but rather a great attempt at offering an uplifting film with a timely message.