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'Wonder' Film Review: A drama that shines with honesty and pulls at the heartstrings

November 16, 2017Britany Murphy

When 10-year-old August "Auggie" Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) must take off his cherished astronaut helmet and step into the real world, he learns that children can be cruel and unkind. Having been home-schooled his entire life and suffering from a congenital face deformity, Auggie must now not only adjust to elementary school culture, but his new classmates must also adjust to him.

Based on the bestselling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder follows Auggie as he prepares to enter a new chapter in his life: middle school. That alone can be a challenging time for any child, but for Auggie, it's particularly daunting. He's undergone countless surgeries to help him hear, to help him see and to help him look "more normal." Even so, Auggie prefers to go out into the world with his astronaut helmet in order to hide his face from his peers.

His mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), who has put her career on hold in order to care for Auggie, is confident that now is the perfect time for her son to start school. However, his father, Nate (Owen Wilson), isn't quite sure of Auggie’s readiness. In the end, however, Isabel convinces Nate, and she brings Auggie to school for orientation, where they meet the principal, Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), and a few of the other kids in his grade, namely Julian (Bryce Gheisar), Charlotte (Elle McKinnon) and Jack Will (Noah Jupe). This is when Auggie first learns about the harsh realities of unkindness from other children, especially through his interactions with Julian.

Suffice to say, school isn't easy for Auggie. It takes him a long time to even make a single friend, and when he does, unkindness inevitably rears its ugly head. Not all is lost though, and when a girl named Summer (Millie Davis) decides to join Auggie for lunch one day after things fall apart, the pair become fast friends, and Auggie learns that having "nice friends for a change" is something that is well-deserved, not only for others, but for him as well.

As much as the film is about Auggie, we also gain insight into the lives of the people around him, especially his older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), who constantly feels invisible while Auggie sticks out like a sore thumb. Most notably, Via has to come into her own when her best friend, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), decides to start hanging out with a new crowd, leaving her behind. But regardless of what's happening in both Auggie's and Via's lives, the two siblings love one another unconditionally and only want what’s best for each other.

The performances from the entire cast are nothing short of touching. Every single character has a moment that is ultimately their own and which really makes you realize just who they are and how they became that way. At the same time, the way the movie handles its characters' trials and tribulations is dynamic and purposeful. It truly tugs at the heartstrings, reminding audiences that everyone is fighting their own battle, even if we may not always see it.

Directed by Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who also co-wrote the film with Steve Conrad and Jack Thorne, Wonder is emotionally charged but does not skimp on lighthearted or feel-good moments. This is a movie that shows that even though people may not want to be gawked at, they do want to be seen, and Chbosky and company do a great job bringing humanity to the forefront. The result reminds us of just what it means to truly be kind. After all, one small act of kindness can really mean the world to someone. So, as Auggie says, "Choose kind."

Wonder releases November 17th, 2017 from Entertainment One. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 53 min.

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