Movie Review: Cinema Cindy Reviews: Wonder
By CYNTHIA BIDDLECOMB
“Wonder” can be a chosen attitude toward life. It is also the name of a new movie about a 5th grader in New York City who is going to school for the first time.
The 5th grader is August Pullman who was born with a genetic defect called “Treacher Collins Syndrome” resulting in his having a disfigured face. He has been home schooled for years, but now, his parents feel, it is time he went to school with other kids and learned to deal with the real world.
Auggie realizes that kids will recoil at the sight of his face. Yet he hopes for better. Maybe someone will want to be his friend. After all, he likes Star Wars and Minecraft like any kid. He wants to be an astronaut. He is really good at science. We go through Auggie’s first year at Beecher Prep School, watching as the kids in his class get to know him. Kindness is a huge theme here, as are Compassion and Acceptance.
Jacob Tremblay, who played the son in the 2015 Oscar-nominated movie “Room”, stars as Auggie. In the roles of his parents—Nate who keeps them laughing and Isabel who never gives up—are Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts. His sister Via, “Olivia”, played by Izabela Vidovic, is comfortable not rocking the family boat so Auggie can get all the help he needs. Mandy Patinkin plays the principal of Beecher Prep School who prepares the students for Auggie’s presence in their class.
Part way into the movie, the narrative allows us to hear from the kids. First to tell his perspective is Auggie, then his sister Via, and then each of their good friends, Miranda and Jack Will. These perspectives help us to understand the motives of individuals in the story and how Auggie’s condition is impacting their lives. It is a useful story telling tool leading to the ultimate message: everyone has something going on in their lives, if only we would listen to what they are going through.
Wonder is based on the best selling children’s book of the same name written by R. J. Palacio. She was inspired to write it after going to an ice cream shop with her son who cried when he saw a child with Treacher Collins Syndrome. This incident is used as part of the backstory of Jack Will, Auggie’s friend.
Auggie’s parents are awesome. His teachers are all terrific, especially Mr. Brown, who writes a precept on the board once a month, each seeming to outline the themes of the film. One classmate bullies Auggie and gets in trouble; the bullying is nasty but not physical and he gets an appropriate punishment from the principal.
This is a wonder-filled movie, great for the family. Children in fourth grade and older may relate well to it and parents should bring tissues in case they find their eyes leaking like mine did. Wonder is “Rated PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language.” Do yourself a favor and see this movie.