An uplifting and feel-good, must-see film. No matter how bleak it can get and while we often presume the worst in people, Wonder teaches us that we may be pleasantly surprised by the kindness of those who decide to do what is right instead of what is easy.
Going into Wonder, there was a concern that the film would solely focus on the extraordinary problems faced by the main character “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), who’s facial deformities mean that he has never been to mainstream school and results in him being subsequently bullied and isolated when he joins Beecher Prep for middle School. Thankfully, the film strikes the correct balance between the obvious problems faced by Auggie and the more subtle and well-concealed problems faced by his sister, Olivia (Izabela Vidovic) and her once best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell).
Wonder hooks the audience from the start very successfully, it succinctly introduces the family and provides context, although it’s almost exclusively about Auggie. While this is expected, the film later provides context about some of the other characters such as Miranda when the story branches out to other characters, this makes up for the original dominance from Auggie. The film demonstrates how a strong family unit can always help and rally those who face the biggest challenge, but it also conversely highlights how it can unintentionally marginalise those who’s problems are secondary.
This storytelling balance sends a clear message to the audience, in that everybody has their own battles to face and everyone is affected by the turmoil of everyday life. The character of Olivia highlights the sacrifice made by multiple family members when there’s another who is facing huge and obvious problems, her successful performance in the school play towards the end of the film demonstrates that we often fail to notice the talent and success of others around us.
The characters of Jack (Noah Jupe) and Miranda, highlight how people of varying ages are united in the common pressure to conform to the social norms of high school ,and subsequently to the most popular group, even if this is something they don’t truly want to do. Miranda is a character that was once a very close friend to Olivia but abandons her for a more popular set of friends.Wonder gives us an honest and realistic insight into the harsh and judgemental behaviour of young children. This is depicted by Julian Albans (Bryce Gheisar), the popular model student who mercilessly teases and bullies Auggie for his facial deformities, dubbing him “Darth Hideous” and putting various hurtful photographs in his locker. The final revelation of these wicked acts to the Head teacher, Mr Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), and the slow demise of his friendship group leaves Auggie and the rest of the audience with a warming feeling of satisfaction in the end.
While Wonder successfully and realistically demonstrates how the words of just one person can significantly damage a young child, the film strays away from realism on several occasions, namely how both Auggie and Olivia seem to go from complete isolation to incredible popularity, seemingly in a very short space of time. In addition, both of these characters are far from proactive in acquiring new friends, instead their new best friends seem to fall into their lap even though both Auggie and Olivia repeatedly start conversations on the defensive with uninviting first remarks. While there are many friendship that do start out this way, the convenient entrance and undeterrable kindness and characteristics of Jack, Summer or Justin are one of the few occasions where Wonder strays towards the improbable and far-fetched.
However, Wonder remains a realistic film, this is helped by the excellent use of popular references throughout, such as that of Minecraft and Star Wars. Both these being stated to be some of Auggie’s biggest interests makes him appear to be a normal and relatable young child to the audience, who aside from his illness is just like a child of his age. The visual use of Star wars characters such as Chewbacca and Darth Sideous, not only reaffirms his genuine love for the franchise but also show how like many others he uses it as a method of coping with the stress of adjusting to a new situation.
Wonder (2017), directed by Stephen Chbosky, is released on Blu-ray disc and DVD in the UK by Lionsgate, certificate PG.