Wonder – Heart-warmingly Wonder-ful

Wonder Review

Runtime: 113mins | Director: Stephen Chbosky | Rating: 4 Stars

I saw a trailer for Wonder a few months ago and thought nothing of it. Fast forward to the present and my mum and sister (who both read the best-selling novel) ask me if I’m interested in seeing it with them – “I’ve not anything better to do, so sure, why not”, I replied – I’m very glad I went.

The story tells of a seemingly everyday family in New York who are living the American Dream – they live in a beautiful brownstone building, they have no financial problems, they own a dog – they seem to have to have it all. That’s until we are introduced to August (Jacob Tremblay), their son, who has severe facial deformities. As ‘Auggie’ enters fifth grade at a new school, he and his family try to find ways to cope with the mounting social hardships that arise as a result of his condition, taking us on a beautiful journey of self-discovery.

Going into this, I admit I was wary. Given the subject of the film, I was concerned that the director, Stephen Chbosky, would ‘milk’ Auggie’s condition to satisfy those who like a tear-jerker. Saying that though, I was pleasantly surprised. Of course, the film is incredibly emotional – evidenced by the fact that my mum went through roughly three packets of tissues throughout – but it is done so in a way that doesn’t feel mawkish, and this is predominantly down to the quality of the acting.

I’ve been a fan of Jacob Tremblay since I saw him in Room with co-star (and apparent best friend), Brie Larson. Whilst I thought he did a fantastic job then, he really excelled himself in Wonder. Acting under heavy prosthetics is hard for any actor, let alone an 11-year-old boy, yet Tremblay owns the performance and carries the role with ease and conviction.

He was also aided by cinematic veterans, Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson. Despite liking Owen Wilson, I have a love/hate relationship with his films – I either find them great, or terrible; fortunately, this fell into the ‘great’ category. This was predominantly down to the fact he was reigned in and had minimal lines, but what he did say, was hilarious – there was very much an emphasis on quality, not quantity in Wonder. One particularly funny moment was when Wilson is offering sage fatherly advice to Auggie under his breath and Auggie asks why he’s whispering, to which he replies “because I’m scared of your mother”.

Acting aside, I also loved the structure of the film. Not being familiar with the book, I didn’t realise that its chapters were written from the perspectives of different characters, and this was something I truly loved about the film too.

Throughout Wonder, we are primarily given Auggie’s perspective. At intervals throughout, however, we are given a glimpse into the lives of the other characters which reveals their motivations for their actions, along with their thoughts. This added a much deeper layer to the film than I had anticipated for. It would have been very easy to only give Auggie’s perspective throughout, but this makes you empathise with every character (even those who are portrayed as antagonists) which had my attention baited from start to finish. I enjoyed the fact that at the start of the film I liked certain characters, then I disliked them, then at the end (once I had seen things from their perspectives), I liked them again, or at least understood why they had acted a certain way.

Saying that though, my only criticism of the film is that I’d have liked more time spent on some of the other characters’ perspectives – mainly, Jack-Will and Miranda. Whilst they spend enough time on them to convey their position in relation to Auggie and his family, I felt they could have added more depth to their stories which I’d have been interested to see.

The thing I liked most about this film, however, is that it’s one of the most feel-good and satisfying films I’ve seen in a long time. I came out of it feeling genuinely happy - something I’ve always loved that film has the power to do.

Wonder also has a great message accompanying it – “It’s not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.” Whilst I don’t wish to end this review on a sombre note, I do believe this is a message worth highlighting. With problems such as mental health on the rise (roughly one in four people in the UK a year will face a problem with mental health) it’s important we make an active effort to be kinder and more understanding to everyone - especially when not everyone who is suffering may have such an obvious reason like, Auggie.

In summary, though, Wonder is a beautiful film which is sure to leave a smile (and most likely, tears too) on your face. Not only that, but it is yet another notch in Jacob Tremblay’s belt of cinematic success – he’s going to do great things. Arguably though, the biggest success of the film is that Owen Wilson doesn’t say “wow” once... maybe miracles really can happen?


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