WONDER, directed by Stephen Chbosky and produced by Cleveland’s own Todd Lieberman, is based on the best-selling children’s book by R.J. Palacio.
WONDER tells the incredibly inspiring and heartwarming story of August (Auggie) Pullman played by Jacob Tremblay, who was born with facial differences. Despite 27 corrective surgeries in his 10 years of life, Auggie stands out as looking different from the other children.
In order to help Auggie adjust to a more normal life, his parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, make the decision to enroll him in the local private school, feeling somewhat certain that 5th grade is as good a time as any. The school further attempts to facilitate Auggie’s adjustment to a mainstream school setting by arranging an orientation before the school year begins with 3 fellow students, Charlotte (Elle McKinnon), Julian (Bryce Gheisar), and Jack Will (Noah Jupe.)
Auggie’s first interaction with these students, as well as his experience on his first day of school, does not go very well and he is met with stares and harsh words. Despite his efforts using certain coping mechanisms and techniques, this is still incredibly difficult for Auggie. He is not sure if he will ever fit in.
As a parent, I’m very excited about this film. It’s very rare to find a true family film that appeals to everyone without containing content that some may find offensive such as foul language, sexual themes, or gratuitous violence. Instead, WONDER advocates kindness and really gets to the heart of the serious, prevailing problem of bullying, helping its viewers to think deeper about what’s going on behind the scenes in a person’s life. What makes a bully a bully, and if you are a victim of bullying, how to go about dealing with it and handling it?
The message in this movie was simple but profound. When it comes to showing kindness, most of us would like to think we would never be unkind to a person like Auggie because of differences beyond their control, but the reoccurring message of “choose kind” presented in this film, will make you think deeper and examine your relationships with people you come into contact with on any given day and ask yourself, “am I really choosing kind in ALL my interactions?” It helps the viewer to remember, everyone is fighting a hard battle! Let’s face it, it’s easy to be kind to people you know and like. The challenge in choosing kind is to do so when we are unfamiliar with the person, or especially, with those not being so kind to you.
Everyone can benefit from kindness, even the bullies. In fact, there is a really great scene with Auggie’s main antagonist, Julian, and his mom and dad which provides great food for thought for parents. The scene also gives more insight as to why bullies such as Julian act the way they do. What message are we giving our children? Are we excusing or allowing their behaviors and unkind treatment of others just because “kids will be kids”, or are we setting the best example we can in how to show sincere kindness towards all?
The entire cast does an excellent and convincing job in their roles; Julia Roberts as the mom who had to put aside her dreams when a child is born to her and is in unexpected need of the extra attention as well as the extra challenges and worries she has to deal with , Owen Wilson as the supporting husband and father, Mandy Patinkin as Principal Tushman, who seems to understand the children and their challenges in a deeper sense and really tries to assist as best as he can, and Daveed Diggs as Mr. Browne, the teacher who truly takes his job to heart by doing what he can to help his students really examine who they aspire to be.
In this movie, however, it’s the younger cast who rule the film. You’re going to love the impressive talent as they do an incredible job of realistically portraying the struggles and choices we all have to make in our relationships. There’s Charlotte – the privileged child star, Julian – the bully and popular kid who has a strong influence on the other students, Summer – the girl who just wants some nice friends for a change but has to do so by taking a chance and leaving the popular kids to get to know Auggie better, and Jack Will – a 10 year old nice guy who is struggling with a decision of loyalty for his long-time popular friend who he knows is wrong and the new unpopular kid who could really use a true friend.
Izabela Vidovic who plays Auggie’s older sister is also very notable in her role, as the movie takes the time to show not only how Auggie is affected by his differences but also the perspectives of those who know and love him, like his sister Via, (Vidovic), who has always had to take a back seat because of all the attention given to her little brother.
There are many cute and funny moments in the film that will make you laugh and help to balance out the strong emotions but trust me, you will definitely need to remember the tissues, especially for the end!
The reaction to the trailers and screenings have been so positive. So many people I have talked to are looking forward to this movie and I can’t wait for everyone to see it. WONDER’s message is such a positive one and I can see it setting a new paradigm in how we view and treat each other. This is a great movie for young and old alike as Auggie grows so much throughout his personal experiences and really proves beyond a doubt that “you can’t blend in when you’re born to stand out.”
This is my first movie review and so I don’t really have a system for rating movies yet, but I would definitely give WONDER a 10 out of 10 for the storyline, the pace, the overall message, the family friendliness, the acting, and the effect it will have on the viewers. It’s no WONDER why this movie won Heartland Films 2017 Truly Moving Picture Award!
Please see this movie! If you have kids, talk about its message before and after with your children and about ways that we can all do more to “choose kind”.
If you have a few minutes, I would love to hear your thoughts and reactions in the comments below or if you prefer to share your thoughts on social media, remember to tag them with the official hashtags: #WonderTheMovie and #ChooseKind and please tag me as well with #CleKids so I won’t miss them!