Stephen Chbosky (director)
30 November 2017 (released)
02 December 2017
Just in time for the festive season, Wonder is a heart-warming drama which makes a quiet but compelling case for being kind to one another.
Based on the popular 2012 novel by R.J. Palacio, Wonder centres on 10-year-old August 'Auggie' Pullman (Jacob Tremblay from Room in prosthetics), a space-obsessed boy with a genetic condition that causes severe facial deformities.
While he's confident in the bosom of his loving family, doting mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), jovial father Nate (Owen Wilson) and sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), his comfortable world makes a huge shift when Isabel makes the decision to let him brave the schoolyard with other children after being home-schooled, despite knowing the challenges he will face there.
She prays for them to “be nice to him”, but by the end of the day he has been dubbed “Darth Hideous” by the class bully at his new private prep school.
Despite the rough start, over the coming weeks Auggie befriends a boy called Jack and a girl called Summer.
Friendship, as most adults know, is a complicated and sometimes painful business, and the pals stumble upon some rough spots along the way.
We follow Auggie as he encounters the cruelty and rare kindness of other children, as the film separates into small chapters to broaden out the back stories of the other characters in his orbit including older sister Via, who adores her brother but understandably feels neglected at home and at school.
Auggie's school buddy Jack flip-flops because of peer pressure and Via's estranged best-friend, Miranda, begins to blank her now that she’s hanging with the cool kids. These elements ultimately help to widen the theme across all the players; that everyone needs empathy no matter their circumstances.
Tremblay, who gained critical acclaim for his role in Room, is the perfect choice for the science mad child, who has to learn to find his draw his strength from within and not just from his family. His scenes with onscreen mum Roberts are touching and warning - you may need tissues at the ready as it does tug at the heartstrings without sliding into TV-movie style schmaltz.
Director/co-writer Stephen Chbosky, who previously helmed the similarly empathetic teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), does a great job at not over-playing the sentiment, and it is a timely return to a low-tech family drama, which has all but been relegated to TV movie status.
Wonder could be the sleeper hit of the festive season, and a surprise Oscar contender after performing well at the American box office.
In any case, this heartfelt drama makes a timely return to old-fashioned values, and adds plenty of “feels” to the phrase “feelgood” movie.