“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.” -Via (Auggie’s sister)
This quote pretty much sums up the premise Wonder, a wondrous hit movie based on the novel by R.J. Palacio. The story revolves around Auggie Pullman, who was born with an extreme facial abnormality, as he traverses the halls of middle school for the first time. After being homeschooled for the better part of his life due, his mother (played by Julia Roberts) decides it’s time for him to face the world by entering fifth grade at a private middle school in Manhattan. As he becomes the unlikeliest of heroes, Auggie’s journey will show his family, his new friends, and the school community the meaning of compassion and acceptance.
The story begins with Auggie’s first day of school. As he struggles to fit in, he gradually learns to open up when one his classmates, Jack, reluctantly befriends him. Things start to look up for him and he believes that things may not be bad as he thought. That is until an interesting turn of events usurps his belief. The film realistically depicts how kids can be cruel and unjust as bullies; a theme prevalent throughout the course of the film. It resonates because it deals with very real-world problems of bullying in schools. And in a superb line, a precept taught by Mr. Browne, these words have a powerful impact that sticks with you long after the credits have rolled, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”
Though the focus of the movie is shot from Auggie’s point of view (POV), the story weaves in and out by shedding the light on the some of the movie’s supporting cast of characters, including his mother, Isabel (Roberts); sister, Via; her best friend, Miranda; and Auggie’s newfound friend, Jack Will. By delving into their backstories, it allows us to see their struggles around Auggie and how they cope. By showing the vignettes of each of these characters, it shows sympathy for their actions. I found myself making initial preconceptions of certain characters, but whereas another film would explain it away with a piece of dialogue, writer/director Stephen Chbosky makes the wise choice of showing the backstory.
Jacob Tremblay of Room fame pulls off the role with aplomb. Underneath all that makeup, he creates an earnest, sympathetic character to cheer at. We feel what he feels and when he pulls off a victory, it makes you smile. You sometimes forget that he’s wearing all that makeup. The supporting cast is equally adept. Though the pairing of Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson was a little perplexing. Roberts still shows why she’s an A-List star by portraying a strong, caring mother. And the role of Auggie’s sister, played by Izabela Vidovic has an innocence to her that can’t be denied.
The script deftly blends a heartwarming tale with a sprinkle of humor and there are powerful quotes abound that serves to progress the story and aims to teach us a lesson.
It hits all the right notes, by tugging at our heartstrings and uplifts us all. Who knows, it may just end up teaching you something.