UK Release Date: 1st December 2017
Runtime: 113 minutes
Director: Stephen Chbosky
Writer: Jack Thorne, Steve Conrad, Stephen Chbosky
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, Noah Jupe, Danielle Rose Russell
Synopsis: A smart kid with a facial deformity is sent to school for the first time after years of home teaching and must try to make friends while dealing with horrible, cruel bullying.
The signs weren’t good for Wonder. Promoted with the nauseating hashtag #ChooseKind and with some syrupy, sentimental trailers, it sounded like a saccharine slice of nonsense. The film stars Jacob Tremblay, who has experienced a decidedly mixed career path since he broke out as the scene-stealing star of Room. He was wasted by bizarre thriller Shut In and equally tossed aside in the genuinely baffling The Book of Henry. Wonder, though, confounds low expectations in order to produce a heart-warming cinematic treat with great performances at its centre.
It’s a movie that has its heart placed in exactly the right place – proudly on its sleeve. Adapted from the 2012 novel by RJ Palacio, it’s a film that foregrounds emotion above any kind of thematic sophistication. Tremblay is every inch the star we all know he will be as Auggie, who has been home-schooled by his mother (Julia Roberts) as a result of a facial deformity and health complications surrounding it. In time for fifth grade, Auggie is set to go to school for the first time, which puts pressure on him and on family members, including his dad (Owen Wilson) and teenage sister (Izabela Vidovic).
Tremblay’s performance is what holds Wonder together. He gives the impression of confidence lurking beneath innocence and that dichotomy is conveyed throughout the film, as Auggie struggles with bullies while also making friends with the likes of Noah Jupe’s Jack Will. Tremblay is heart-breaking and hilarious in equal measure, making the most of a script that has the fortitude to acknowledge Auggie is a complex child even outside of his disability.
The supporting performances are equally impressive, with Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts transforming their own trademark shtick into its warmest possible analogue. Wonder gives the other members of Auggie’s family arcs of their own, with Roberts handed plenty of death and TV bit-player Izabela Vidovic handed a complex arc about teenage friendship and romance. In a lesser film, she would have been pushed aside, but Wonder has all of the time in the world for the relatives in Auggie’s orbit.
Wonder is an unashamedly sentimental film, but it is competent enough to stay firmly on the right side of being twee. Its central moral message is an obvious ‘be nice’ idea, delivered with enough flair and genuinely rounded, believable characters that it works beyond the obvious hashtags and light-footed marketing. This isn’t a life-changing movie, but it is a tear-jerking, warm film that will have you leaving the cinema smiling and crying at the same time. Director Stephen Chbosky‘s next film, appropriately enough, is about a character literally named Charming. Well, if the shoe fits.
Pop or Poop?
Another stunning performance from young star Jacob Tremblay powers a precision-tooled slice of sentimental sob fuel in Wonder. The supporting players are also given their chance to shine by a script that never shies away from harsh edges, while also showcasing a real lightness of touch.
It is a little obvious in its messaging, but it’s never schmaltzy and, in 2017, the notion of being nice isn’t something that comes naturally to most. It definitely should.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.