Wonder - This Movie Rocks In A Wonderful Way
Dir: Stephen Chbosky
Starring Julia Roberts, Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Mandy Patinkin, Izabela Vidovic
Stephen Chbosky clearly has an affinity for the outsiders in the school halls. His last movie, the excellent Perks of Being a Wallflower, expertly captured the angst and anxiety of dislocated teens, finding a means of community within their outcast selves. Here, the outsider is clearer to see, in the shape of Auggie (Tremblay), or more accurately in the face of Auggie. Born with a rare genetic condition, Auggie does not look like the other kids as he joins them in the fifth grade, his first time in a real school, away from the home schooling of his parents Roberts and Wilson.
What follows is a genuinely moving tale of small triumphs in an only slightly out of the ordinary life.
Adapted from the best seller by R. J. Palacio, Chbosky’s warm and honest film is more than happy to wear its heart on its sleeve, but manages to constantly divert from the obvious. Thus, we not only focus on young Auggie and (particularly) his relationship with his mother, but also take time to move into the other lives that surround his – chapter headings easing us into the day to day reality of his often (she feels) overlooked sister Via (a splendid Vidovic), and also that of her now too cool to know ya best friend, who at first seems incidental to Auggie’s tale, but is soon revealed as essential.
Throughout, Chbosky marshals top quality performances from all his cast. Tremblay is remarkable, proving that his debut in Room was clearly not a one-off, whilst Roberts, who has been far too long away from a decent role like this, simply embraces every frame she inhabits, her remarkably expressive face (and no, we don’t just mean the mile-wide smile) bringing us into the mixed emotions of this new stage in her life, the actress never resorting to saccharine or easy manipulative moves.
Which pretty much applies to Wonder as a whole. It is a film very deliberately designed to grab all the heart strings you have and pluck the very life out of them, but never in the wrong way. It’s here to move you, make no bones about it, and does so in a simply (apologies) wondrous way.
Bring the hankies – you’ll be more than glad you did.
Follow us on Twitter @lastwordonearth