Directed by Stephen Chbosky.
Starring Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabel Vidovic, Noah Jupe, Danielle Rose Russell, Nadji Jeter, Millie Davis, Sonia Braga, Emma Tremblay, Ali Liebert, Daveed Diggs, Crystal Lowe, and Mandy Patinkin.
Based on the New York Times bestseller, WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman, a boy with facial differences who enters fifth grade, attending a mainstream elementary school for the first time.
Throw out all your inhibitions and your cynicism because Wonder is a tough film to dislike. So full of heart and so without an ounce of misanthropy, Stephen Chbosky has woven a tale rich and ripe in compassion. It’s unabashedly saccharin and heartwarming, enough to make even the hardest of folks beam through tears.
Jacob Tremblay (of Room fame) stars as August “Auggie” Pullman, a 10-year-old boy with severe facial deformities. Refuge is found watching Star Wars – the film is chock full of cameos from a galaxy far far away – and within an astronaut helmet he chooses to wear everywhere. His mother Isabel (a brilliant Julia Roberts), a one time brilliant illustrator who put her career to the side to care for Auggie fears for the worst when he begins school for the first time, away from the haven of home school, “God please let them be nice to him.” His father Nate (Owen Wilson), is more optimistic, an Owen Wilson type, all charisma and charm whilst older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) struggles with her place within her family.
Once at school, Auggie is welcomed by Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), a Mandy Patinkin type and teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs) who left his job on Wall Street to follow his dream of being a middle school teacher. There he befriends Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and begins to navigate the qualms and quarrels of the outside world.
Chbosky smartly breaks the film up into chapters, focusing on individuals and upon them the impact of Auggie, almost Rashomon for pre-teens. Characters may resemble after-school special caricatures, all stereotypes with no stone left unturned, but they are developed with enough and heart and enough interest they begin to resemble something vaguely real. Vidovic’s Via, struggling with her place both at school and within the family finds a haven in the drama club, yet she manages to fully convey the hopelessness of being lost.
Like Room before, Jacob Tremblay puts in a further dazzling performance. There is no begging for sympathy and he brings real dramatic heft to moments that demand it.
In fact, across the board performances are stellar. Roberts and Wilson are unobtrusive and through the syrup resemble a real couple and the kids, from Noah Jupe’s Will to Elle McKinnon’s preening child actor Charlotte are all excellent.
It too never shies away from the harshness of both children unaware of the cruelty and the innate bitterness of parents. Stock bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar) is played maybe slightly too broad, but a late reveal shifts blame towards the parents, a smart move that reframes the film in a deft manner.
Wonder is all heart and compassion without even an ounce of cynicism. Live action family films worth your time are few and far between, but with this and Paddington 2, there may finally be a reason to bring the whole family along.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★