The Jakarta Post
Ten-year-old August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) steals hearts within minutes of making his introduction—his head still covered in his beloved astronaut helmet—in Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder.
Auggie is creative, has a passion for all things scientific and aspires to visit the moon. Once he removes his helmet, we learn something else he already knows about himself: his juvenile face is scarred, his eyes tear-shaped and his earlobes small flaps. Having undergone 27 surgeries—none of which, he says, have made him look quite “ordinary”—and grown up homeschooled by his doting mother Isabel (Julia Roberts), he isn’t excited to go for his first day at a private middle school.
In middle school, Auggie faces unrelenting ridicule and experiences what it means to have and keep friendships—all while he comes to terms with his condition. He is well liked by his peers (and maintains that from his audience) by demonstrating his knack for winning people over despite his reserved nature. What is, arguably, most impressive about this indelibly clever and good-hearted pre-teen is that he remains his nerdy, authentic self in the wake of the challenges he is met with, as opposed to acting up. Perhaps this can be attributed to his family’s perennial support, which he can count on even when he might not want it.
The two-hour film leans on its talented cast to tell its earnest and sweet family story. Jacob Tremblay as Auggie delivers a strong performance, inviting the audience to emotionally invest in his character development throughout the course of the film. Izabela Vidovic, who plays Auggie’s sister Olivia “Via” Pullman, effortlessly captures the despondency of a teen who has had to silently deal with her parents’ benign neglect of her since Auggie’s birth. Julia Roberts portrays a selfless and unassuming mother who is tasked with juggling the feelings of everyone in the Pullman household, and is well placed along Owen Wilson who plays Auggie’s thoughtful and sensitive dad.
Based on the number one New York Times bestseller of the same name by RJ Palacio, it conforms to the multi-character narration style of the book. While this may not work for all movies, in Wonder, an awareness of varied perspectives gives rise to an understanding of each character’s feelings, motives and responses, and how this contributes to the larger plot. It’s wonderful (pun intended?) how Chbosky takes this story about a little boy with a genetic deformity and weaves it around the people important to him: his parents (Julia Roberts & Owen Wilson), his sister (Izabela Vidovic), his pet dog Daisy, his friends (as well as enemies) at school, and memorable English teacher Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs).
Overall, Wonder both moves and amuses as it explores the dynamics of Auggie’s life at school and at home. Packed with some cliché poster-worthy quotes you can find in Palacio’s spinoff 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts, this sentimental film is sure to tug at your heartstrings with its universal message of promoting kindness and acceptance—a message that can be appreciated by one and all.
To quote from a picture posted on Twitter by @WonderTheMovie earlier this week: “When given the choice between reading the book or seeing the movie, choose BOTH!” (afr/kes)