It takes energy and effort to be a jerk. It requires strength and compassion to be kind. Too often in our world, we are confronted with images of the terrible things that humans are capable of doing to each other. WONDER is a movie that momentarily allows us to see how good people can be and the power that comes from showing kindness.
WONDER is a film based on a bestselling novel by Raquel Jaramillo (under the pen name R. J. Palacio). Jacob Tremblay stars as Auggie Pullman, a 10 year old born with a genetic facial condition who decides to stop being homeschooled and attend public school for the first time. Whatever flaws exist in the execution of translating this book to a visual medium pale in comparison to what the film gets right. The emotion portrayed by the actors is absolutely undeniable. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson have an amazing chemistry not just with each other but also as parents to Auggie and their daughter Via (Izabela Vidovic). The family dynamic is beautiful and relatable to anyone, not just to families with children with special needs.
The film gracefully took on such heavy topics but miraculously didn’t allow that to weigh itself down. At home, Auggie is the center of the universe, and at school, he becomes the object of bullying. So often we hear of children with invisible differences who struggle with bullying only for their lives to end too soon and tragically. This story actually tries to offer a solution: Teach children to be kind to each other. And kindness most certainly is taught. It starts at home with parents and siblings. There are lessons expressed in the movie that are precepts for life we all need to follow.
The film is not perfect. The first half of the movie is broken into chapters from a different character’s point of view. To a degree it worked in giving some of the more minor characters a clearer motivation and their own three-dimensionality, but when the convention was dropped, I wondered how necessary it was in the first place. I would have loved to see more glimpses into Auggie’s vivid imagination, which was touched on sporadically in the movie. There are also storylines that felt unresolved at the end. However, none of these issues distracted me away from the feelings and emotions, and that’s what I think this movie is all about. WONDER is a family film that both parents and children will enjoy and that will teach your kids beautiful and necessary lessons about life. If you believe that your children can be the change they wish to see in the world, then this movie is a great place to start. WONDER opens this Friday, November 17, 2017.