Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
Being born with Treacher Collins syndrome
The true value of every person is their eternal soul, which is internal—not the external and very temporary physical form that the world sees.
The great importance of kindness and love
MOTHER son relationships
FATHER son relationships
Bullying / How to handle bullies
Who can TRULY give you the necessary courage to face a world full of problems, bad behavior and pain? Who is the only One who can truly see who you are on the inside? Whose love never fails?
Does God feel our pain? Answer
Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer
What about the issue of suffering? Doesn’t this prove that there is no God and that we are on our own? Answer
|Featuring:||Jacob Tremblay … August “Auggie” Pullman
Owen Wilson … Nate Pullman, Auggie’s father and Isabel’s husband
Julia Roberts … Isabel Pullman, Auggie’s mother and Nate’s wife
Sonia Braga … Grans, Mrs. Russo, Isabel’s mother
Mandy Patinkin … Mr. Tushman
Izabela Vidovic … Olivia “Via” Pullman, Auggie’s sister
Mark Dozlaw … Teenage Doctor
Rukiya Bernard … Nurse
Jennifer March … Neonatologist
Noah Jupe … Jack Will, Auggie’s best friend at school
Bryce Gheisar … Julian
Crystal Lowe … Julian's Mom
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|Director:||Stephen Chbosky—“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012), Screenplay: “Beauty and the Beast” (2017)|
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“Wonder” tells the story of Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a boy born with severe facial deformities who is about to enter the daunting world of middle school. Starting middle school is hard for all children, of course, but Auggie has spent his scholastic years being home-schooled by his mother Isabel (Julia Roberts). This will be Auggie’s first extended exposure to other children, who will no doubt point and stare and mock.
His parents continue to wrestle with whether or not it’s a good idea, with Auggie’s father Nate (Owen Wilson) going so far as saying they are basically “leading a lamb to slaughter.” But, they know the boy will have to face the world at some point, and so with lots of encouragement from them and from Auggie’s older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), and a few tears, Auggie enters Beecher Prep to start the 5th grade.
He meets the principal, Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin) a few days before school starts, and is greeted by a welcoming party of 3 fellow 5th-graders tasked with showing Auggie around the school. All 4 kids are nervous for various reasons, and one of the boys, Julian, finally just comes out and asks Auggie, “So what’s the deal with your face?” Another boy, Jack, stands up for Auggie and tells Julian to mind his own business.
It’s a brief interaction, but it lays the groundwork for what we know is coming Auggie’s way. School starts, and we see that most kids have no intention of interacting with Auggie, because, as rumor has it, even touching Auggie will give them “the Plague.” As difficult as the first few days are, Auggie slowly begins to acclimate to life in middle school, and slowly but surely starts to win friends with loyalty, smarts, and a good dose of the sense of humor he gets from his father.
Now, a movie like this could very easily follow the standard script and lead us exclusively through all the different nuisances and challenges that Auggie faces. We expect this, after all, because the movie is about Auggie. But, then something happens, maybe a 3rd of the way into the movie to throw it off course. It’s not some dramatic plot moment, but a slight shift in narrative that, not having read the book on which the movie is based, I was not expecting.
We hear from Via that in their world, Auggie is the Sun and everyone else revolves around him. This isn’t the fault of Auggie, or his parents really. It’s understandable. But the movie reminds us that there are other stories within the story, other ways people may be impacted that aren’t as obvious or on the surface. So, we begin to see the story through their eyes, and the movie takes on a much deeper, richer feel. It’s gives us more stories to connect with, characters with which to identify.
Not all of us are born with facial deformities, so instead of allowing us to observe the story of Auggie from afar, it forces us to put ourselves somewhere in the story with the character we see most closely identify with.
“Wonder” is rated PG for “thematic elements including bullying, and some mild language.” Some of the kids are mean to Auggie, but thankfully this movie doesn’t take place in high school, so the level of meanness is relatively mild. A few of the kids joke that they would rather kill themselves than look like Auggie. “Do yourself a favor and die” is written on the back of a class photo that someone has photoshopped Auggie out of. One kid calls another kid a jerk. And one bully near the end of the movie sees Auggie and says “Jesus, that’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen.” The film is aimed at families and children, and I’d say this film is appropriate for kids maybe 3rd grade and up.
I’d also say this is a film that all parents should see. And all kids old enough to understand the concepts. There are all sorts of great teaching moments, and this isn’t one of those family-friendly films parents have to begrudgingly sit through to appease their children.
Sacrifice is a theme that works its way throughout the film. Auggie’s mom sacrifices a career to be with and care for her son through many surgeries and then to provide him with a solid educational foundation for when he does eventually start school with other children. Sister Via sacrifices a relationship with her parents so that her parents can provide for Auggie every step of the way. Jack and other children sacrifice popularity to stand up for a boy they’ve grown to truly care for. Even Via’s former best friend makes an unexpected sacrifice along the way.
Of course, we see the theme of kindness and acceptance, both from the people surrounding Auggie and, at times, from Auggie himself. Forgiveness is a theme we see beautifully represented, as well. All parents, be they believers in Christ or not, will find dozens of scenes they can resort back to with their children to discuss these and many other themes that show up throughout the film.
And, as adults who live in a world where even adults bully each other, “Wonder” contains quite a few lessons for us as well. Once again we see the positive impact that parents can have on the lives of their children and the influences they can have on the decisions their children make. Kids who pick on children like Auggie, or any kid for that matter, aren’t just born with that behavior. And this movie makes no effort to hide the finger it is pointing back at parents.
Auggie is able to withstand the perils of being out in public because he is strong like his mother, funny like his father, kind and thoughtful like his sister. My favorite scene in the movie involves Auggie’s sister, who is trying to get Auggie to speak up about something that happened at school. He won’t tell her, and so she tells him that he’s not the only one who has bad days. He lashes back, telling her that her bad days could never compare to ones he is having. And then she lovingly tells him that life can be tough for people out in the real world, no matter what they look like, and that sticking close and staying true to the people who love you most—to family—is what really gets them through the bad days
This movie won’t ever be ranked among the best films ever made, but it is certainly one of the loveliest, and most family-friendly movies I have seen in quite a while. I’m not sure I’ve seen a “kids” movie that felt like such a necessary viewing experiencing for children since “Inside Out” a few years ago.
I was already tearing up within the first few minutes of this film, and knew I was a goner. A movie like this could have felt like a shameless attempt to drain our tear ducts. And while there are a few, fairly unnecessary scenes that do strike that over-the-top note (one involving the family dog), the emotion elicited from the rest of the film feels genuine and earned.
For a family who has spent so long protecting a boy from disgusted glances and awful comments, letting him go into the world was bound to bring about emotions that they hadn’t felt before or even thought they’d have to deal with. The look on Auggie’s mom’s face when he asks to bring a friend home for the first time is so perfect and heartbreaking and joyous all at once that I’m tearing up just thinking about it. The emotions the characters experience are so wide ranging that it’s impossible for people to see this movie and not feel a connection with at least some of them. So, do yourself a favor and go see “Wonder.” And bring tissues. Trust me.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.