It’s important to note that I cry in movies... a lot. If it’s sad, happy, there’s a dog, the dog dies, someone cries, someone falls in love, if the credits are rolling, there will be tears. Many, many tears. You get the idea. Needless to say that there are rare times I’ve walking into a cinema without a tissue (or 10) on hand, so take what will when I say that by the end of ‘Wonder’ my sleeves were soaked.
The star of ‘Wonder’ is Auggie (Jacob Tremblay, ‘Room’) - he’s 10 years old, is good at science, obsessed with space and ‘Star Wars’, has a dog named Daisy, an older sister called Via (Izabela Vidovic, TV’s ‘The Fosters’) and two incredible and lovings parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson). Auggie is about to start real school for the very first time. Why? Because he was born with a very rare genetic mutation that makes him look... a little different. ‘Wonder’ tells the story of Auggie’s experience at his first school and the impact he makes on the lives around him, from their point of view.
We’ve seen films like this before - ‘Mask’ (1985) and ‘Jack’ (1996). ‘Wonder’ sits somewhere between the two but, as mentioned before, it uniquely introduces the point of view of other characters instead of spending two hours feeling sorry for its protagonist. This is a great approach. Auggie is 10. He’s known nothing but fear, ridicule and staring his entire life - he’s not yet emotionally equipped to teach others about the importance of what’s inside, how to tackle bullies, make friends easily or truly understand what it means to be him or how the world sees him. This is where the other characters come in. However, the children in this film have to be some of the most eloquent and emotionally mature 10-year-olds I’ve ever seen. I’m willing to admit that times may have changed, but I’ve never heard a 10-year-old own and express their feeling quite like they do in ‘Wonder’, even when I was a 10-year-old. It just doesn’t quite ring true.
A film of this nature can very easily fall into saccharine territory and make it an easy tissue-fest that people will brag to their friends about how much they cried. But it doesn’t - ‘Wonder’ very gracefully and comfortably walks the path of beautiful and inspirational. Despite the many branches this film takes, by the end I couldn’t help but feel that there were two glaring omissions. One is that of Isabel, played by the majestic Julia Roberts. How can you tell the tale of a child without telling the tale of the mother!? She’s strong, a matriarch through and through, and her character has sacrificed the most. One could argue that a child’s journey is a mother’s journey, and while that would be correct it would also be insulting to suggest that a mother isn’t a person of her own. But I digress. The second omission is that of the family dog Daisy. This will all make sense once you see the film (and I hope you do) - but trust me, the dog deserved her time in the spotlight. My only explanation for Daisy’s lack of screen time is that writer/director Stephen Chbosky (‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’) is clearly not a dog person. It's a strike against him, but he’s not a complete write-off... yet.
‘Wonder’ very gracefully and comfortably walks the path of beautiful and inspirational.
We were wowed by young Jacob Tremblay in ‘Room’, and now under a mountain of prosthetics we discover it was no fluke. He really is a wonder - and so is this touching film that everyone can learn a little something from. And for god’s sake, don’t forget the tissues.