Wonder

Review by Emily Bray

Directed by

Stephen Chbosky

Starring

Jacob Tremblay Julia Roberts Owen Wilson

Anticipation.

First directorial effort since The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Chbosky continues his quest to save ‘tween’ misfits.

Enjoyment.

Sensitive, and funnier than anticipated.

In Retrospect.

Enjoyable but a little too sweet for this palate.

An explosion of cuddly warmth can be found in this gentle tale of a disfigured boy coming up against school bullies.

The poster for Wonder sees a young boy wearing an astronaut’s helmet – but don’t worry this isn’t another film about space exploration. Judging by Stephen Chbosky’s previously works, including YA comedy-drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it seems that he is yet again trying to save the Justin Bieber generation from themselves – all through the power of kindness. His new film, based on the novel by RJ Palacio, is no different. This relentlessly heartwarming family drama tells the story of August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay of Room fame), a young boy with a severe facial deformity. The film follows this precocious scamp as he starts fifth grade having been home-schooled his entire life, and must face being different in front of the cruelest audience of all – his new classmates.

Auggie is the ‘son around which his family orbit.’ He is the film’s focus, but the story is neatly broken into segments which examine the impact he, and his struggle with his appearance, has on those around him. Every character, whether it’s his kindly sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) or best friend Jack (Noah Jupe), seems to be dealing with their own struggles, and is taught the importance of compassion and understanding through the struggles of another. As he faces the jibes of his classmates and his sister struggles through High School, it becomes clear that kindness will always come out on top. Chbosky is intent on trying to teach the audience this lesson, and it’s repeated throughout. And although positive, it quickly feels overdone and, at times, way too saccharine.

Despite its message, the film a few funny episodes. The casting of Owen Wilson as Auggie’s ‘cool dad,’ is particularly tactful – he wears trainers with his suit and offers lots of silly morsels of advice. Auggie’s mother (Julia Roberts) counterbalances the lols, playing the frayed family head who has given up all of her own interests to look after her son.

Together they present the hardships and rewards that come with having a child who is different. The peppering of real time action, with snippets of Auggie’s overactive imagination, is a charming touch. We experience life from his perspective, with potentially scary moments made fun. There are unexpected appearances from a bouncing astronaut and even Chewbacca, who are there to guide him. It suggests that fantasy is used as coping mechanism by children.

And it is the children who are the stars of this film. Tremblay nimbly balances the emotional impact of Auggie’s disfigurement with an unwaveringly cheery attitude. And Elle McKinnon is very funny as classmate Charlotte – the goody goody child star in the making, who never stops banging on about that ad or TV show she was in. These rounded supporting players are what hold the piece together, bringing both levity and weight to the subject matter.

Published 29 Nov 2017

Tags: Jacob Tremblay Julia Roberts Owen Wilson

Anticipation.

First directorial effort since The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – Chbosky continues his quest to save ‘tween’ misfits.

Enjoyment.

Sensitive, and funnier than anticipated.

In Retrospect.

Enjoyable but a little too sweet for this palate.

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