By Emily Cole
Wonder no more if “Wonder” should be watched this holiday season – it should be at the top of every list. Though “Wonder” is a story about a ten-year-old, the messages, lessons and emotions, are ageless.
Based on the novel by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, and the people in his life. Auggie is a ten-year-old with Treacher Collins syndrome, which caused craniofacial deformities at birth. After being homeschooled for his whole life, Auggie is attending fifth grade at a “regular school,” which creates social situations Auggie, and his family, have never faced before.
While not many people go through life with exactly the same challenges as Auggie, his experiences with cruelty and loneliness are universal. Jacob Tremblay, who plays Auggie, conveys the emotions and the experience of being bullied and being different with an emotional maturity well beyond his 11 years.
But it is not just the heave scenes that he nails, but also funny moments such as when he meets his new principal, Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin,) and reacts to his name. “I’m Mr. Tushman. I’ve heart them all: Tushie, Buttman, Buttface, Mr Tuchus…” to which Auggie stifles a giggle.
While his story is one of diversity and overcoming roadblocks, it is one of success and friendship as well. Auggie Pullman is a dynamic, three-dimensional character, and Tremblay stepped into his shoes and took off running.
While “Wonder” is centered on Auggie’s life, it is not only about him and it is not just a kid’s movie. Every member of the Pullman family is developed and portrayed by phenomenal actors. Auggie’s mother, Isabel, is played by Julia Roberts, and his father, Nate, is played by Owen Wilson.
While parents who see the movie may think they are just taking their kid’s to a movie for them, Roberts and Wilson also provide lessons and emotions that resonate with any parent who has ever worried about their kid.
Additionally, much of Wonder tells the story of Auggie’s sister, Via, played by Izabela Vidovic. Via shows the audience what it is like to not be in the spotlight and forge out on one’s own.
While she still loves and is fiercely protective of Auggie, she also tries new things and often needs her own space. “[My friend] Miranda used to say that our family was like the earth and it always revolved around the son,” says Via in a voiceover to the audience.
Many people find a connection in Via’s journey to step out of her brother’s shadow, to find love, and to find her own spotlight. No matter where the audience falls in life, there is a story in Wonder that will speak to them and tug at the heartstrings.
The tagline of both the book and the movie is “Choose Kind,” because simply not being cruel is not enough. Auggie’s homeroom class is the setting for many of the school scenes of the movie, along with the science room and the cafeteria, and features all of Auggie’s friends, and foes, such as eventual best friend Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and bully Julian (Bryce Gheisar.)
On the first day of school, his teacher Mr. Browne (Hamilton star Daveed Diggs) presents the students with a precept, or a value to help guide the students’ thoughts and actions.
The September precept is, “When given the choice between being right or kind, choose kind.” This precept comes up at various points in the film, whether that is between Jack Will and Auggie, between Jack Will and Julian or even between Via and Miranda. And this message, in a time filled with hatred and violence, could not be timelier.
Whether a child, a parent, a teen, an insider or an outsider, this movie is a tearjerker a stellar cast, a great story and a loud and clear message that everyone needs to hear. “Wonder” is playing at nearby theaters and the novel can be found wherever books are sold.