MOVIE REVIEW: Wonder (2017)

Wonder follows a year in the life of the Pullman family as youngest child, Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) attends school for the first time. Up until fifth grade Auggie has been homeschooled by his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts) because he was born with a genetic facial deformity that has resulted in multiple surgeries and looking different from other children.

Auggie faces the challenge of integrating with his classmates, some of whom are more accepting than others. At the same time Isabel tries to resume her masters thesis, dad Nate (Owen Wilson) pushes past his misgivings and sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic) tries to reinvent herself after losing the support of her lifelong best friend.

While Auggie is the centre of the story, the attention that is given to those around, him particularly, Via, sends a powerful message about the challenges that we all face in life. Auggie’s challenges are very visible but everyone is going through something and isn’t always able to express what is impacting them.

Wonder is a powerfully uplifting story but it is in no way saccharine. Auggie faces alienation from many of his peers as well as some fairly brutal bullying. The way the children react to him feels very real and believable and even an old cynic like me was won over.

Tremblay gives a heartfelt and nuanced performance that goes way beyond the prosthetics he is wearing. Roberts is solid as is Vidovic, but as always Owen Wilson is just playing Owen Wilson. I think he’s just become the go-to if you need someone to play “fun dad”. Mandy Patinkin is great as headmaster, Mr Tushman and Daveed Diggs embodies, Mr Browne, the teacher we all wish we had.

Some time ago I read the novel by R.J. Palacio that this film is based on and absolutely loved it. This is a faithful and charming adaptation that would be enjoyable for a whole family to watch together. Lovely.


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