Sunday, 3 December 2017

Wonder Film Review

Directed by Stephen Chbosky, Wonder is the story of a special child; August Pullman. Starring Room's Jacob Tremblay, with cool Owen Wilson as Dad, and the most beautiful woman in the world, Julia Roberts as his Mum. Some kids have all the luck with these parents.

Auggie is very special, and suffers from a genetic condition called Treacher Collins Syndrome. When he goes out he wears his space helmet so people don't look, and now, after many operations, the home schooled Auggie is about to attend 5th Grade. Both parents are concerned that the other kids will be kind. But kids aren't kind. As an ice-breaker, Homeland's Sol, Mandy Patinkin, as the fantastic headmaster Mr Tushman, (Auggie loves that), has arranged for him to come in early and meet a few of his classmates. With varying success. One of the things Auggie has learned when keeping his head down is how much you can tell from people's shoes. We have hand-me-downs for Jack, trust fund kid Julian and Broadway baby Charlotte. Played by Suburbicon's Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar and Elle McKinnon. School sure is gonna be fun.

Of course Auggie cannot attend school wearing his space helmet, so he's facing the kids down with his own face. But then if Chewbacca attended school Auggie would look at him. And the kids look at Auggie. And to be honest he looks odd, but not recoil in horror, and after a few minutes of watching Auggie he was just oddly and sweetly normal. Except the other kids leave him alone, and well school isn't really that great. Julian is a bully and calls him Darth Hideous. The kid who is perfect for parents and someone completely different when they aren't looking. But Auggie loves science, and gets all the questions right. High five.

Eating dinner that night we talk about our day, Auggie's day was fine, which no-one really believes. And as to sister Via's day, well no-one actually asks.

Izabela Vidovi's Olivia, wished for a brother, but her parents' lives now revolve around the son, and just once it would be nice if they transferred their gaze to her. But she's a good kid, never has to be told to do anything, and if friend Miranda hadn't dropped her after the holidays, then her life would be perfect. She has the coolest parents, living in a huge brownstone New York house, and the funniest brother. His room is as big as a London flat. As luck would have it, and just when she needs a friend, Via meets Justin, played by Nadji Jeter, and right by the drama club sign-up form. So she does. With him she can live a secret life of being two only children together.

As life gets better for Via, so school slowly gets better for Auggie. His teacher, cool Daveed Diggs's Mr Browne, is very encouraging. Science is fantastic, and he and Jack become friends. Be cool, says Mum Isabel when Auggie asks if Jack can come play at home. And soon it's Halloween and the best day of the year, because Auggie can dress up and no-one knows who he is, and no-one's afraid to touch him 

Except when everyone's dressed in masks you don't know who anyone is, and careless words spoken find Auggie back to being alone, and still hideously bullied by Julian. Jack doesn't know why their friendship broke up, but Auggie meets a new friend Summer. Played by the sweet Millie Davis, they are both looking for a nice friend. And eventually Auggie finds himself happily enjoying a lunch table full of laughter.

As in the book by R.J. Palacio, characters are given their own time in the film. Danielle Rose Russell's Miranda heartbreakingly explains why she no longer wanted to be friends with Via. And Jack realises that Auggie was actually the friend he would choose to be with, even though they are no longer friends.

As in the best stories, you know the ones that include Star Wars and Minecraft, and playing the lead role in the school play, well Auggie's little astronaut finally finds a place on Earth that fits him. And knowing Auggie, eventually even the school bullies find that they can choose kind rather than hate.

A well acted and directed film, I smiled and laughed throughout, even when brushing tears away. Such a lovely uplifting story for Christmas, and I hope everyone is really proud of this sweet, gentle film.

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