Wonder – Film Review
Wonder, the new film starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as parents of a little boy named August (Jacob Tremblay) who is living with a facial disfigurement in a world of bullies, is a sweet little movie that is bound to warm your hearts this holiday season. Though the writing of the film can sometimes feel a little hokey and pat in its resolutions, Wonder is a story of hope in the face of harshness in the world, perhaps an idealistic fantasy of how we’d like to believe humanity would eventually respond in such a scenario.
Augie (as he is often called) has spent most of his life hidden from the world, home schooled by his mom and protected by a dad who just want to shield him from the cruelty his disfigurements incite in others. He likes Star Wars, video games, and science, making these things the happy places where he sequesters himself. When mom (Roberts) decides that he needs to start going to school where he can receive the educational challenges and social interaction he needs, there is a great deal of worrying poured into sending him into the world. His first day of school is a disaster, with kids staring at him and asking him brutal questions about his face. He eventually does start to make friends, including Jack Will (a winning Noah Jupe) who struggles with his own bullying and peer pressure for being friends with August, and Summer (a fiery Millie Davis) who stubbornly insists on August’s friendship despite his belief she is insincere. Augie is such a fascinating and loveable person, it is hard to imagine anyone not seeing past his deformity and wanting to be friends with the boy. And yet, there are the stereotypical bullies (who are bullied themselves) waiting to remind Augie that he isn’t like everyone else.
Augie’s protective parents have understandably concentrated their time and attention on August, at the expense of his older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) who is going through her own struggles and growing pains. Her grandmother, with whom she had a special bond, has recently-passed. Her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) abandons her to recreate herself, shedding her old friends for a new persona that allows her to escape the embarrassment of her own mother’s alcoholism. Via hurts in many ways. She loves Augie, but is lost and lonely because her best friend and her parents are focused elsewhere. She goes in search of her own place to belong, finding it in the school drama club where she also finds a sweet young man who boosts her confidence.
Wonder is a film about overcoming obstacles. It’s about the messiness of life and finding the hope and strength to get by, embracing the chaos and giving it meaning. It’s about our need for connection, but also about our need for independence. We amble and wander until we find a way through. Life seldom has happy-ever-afters that are as neat and tied up in a bow like this film would like you to believe, but if you look at Wonder through the same rose-colored glasses it chooses to examine the world with, this film may just touch your heart more than you are expecting.