The first feel-good movie of the 2017 holiday season, “Wonder,” follows August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a young boy with a severe facial deformity, as he attempts to start the fifth grade at a private school after being home-schooled all his life.
As can be expected, the children in his class do not know what to make of Auggie, and he eventually falls victim to a wide array of constant stares and bullying.
Auggie’s parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, do their best to help him through this journey in a film that is guaranteed to connect with the scared child afraid of the unknown in all of us.
A major tenet of “Wonder” is that there are multiple sides to every story. To drive this adage home, the movie shows Auggie’s first day of school from the perspective of both him and his sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic).
They both have relatively bad days and seeing this unfold from one point of view and then another allows the viewer to empathize with both Auggie and Via.
As the story progresses, more characters’ points of view are explored in depth. Instead of having a direct antagonist throughout the film, “Wonder” allows all of its characters to explain their actions and, in the case of Auggie’s bullies, apologize for them.
In an industry dominated by adult actors, the children of “Wonder” really shine through. Tremblay shows off the impressive acting chops that he developed while working on the 2016 Best Picture nominated film “Room.”
As the child protagonist of “Wonder,” Tremblay delivers an endearing and deeply personal performance that allows anyone in the audience who was ever made fun of to connect with his story.
The talented young actors and actresses who interact with Tremblay are likewise able to pull a meaningful emotional response from the audience that builds on the pre-existing empathy “Wonder” has already created.
Seasoned Hollywood veterans Roberts and Wilson are excellent in every scene they are in. The way in which they play off each other with such little effort sells the illusion that they are in fact a married couple who have gone to the end of the world and back to help protect their son.
Instead of the traditional “good cop-bad cop” parenting style that is depicted in many films in which parents play a central role, both Roberts and Wilson bring a general warmth and kindness to their characters that help to drive the story along and help Auggie deal with his classmate’s taunts in a constructive manner.
“Wonder” is one of the best films I have seen in a while and is perfectly suitable for the whole family. The ability for “Wonder” to allow all age groups to empathize with its characters is what sets it above the rest and makes it a must-see for this holiday season.