I’ve made the choice this year to try and watch as many moves as possible. Not that I tend to miss a lot, but a lot of the smaller more indie type movies have a habit of passing me by. I’m not sure Wonder counts as a small indie flick, but it’snot the type of film I would have been in a hurry to watch. But after seeing some great smaller films lately (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri being one of the best), Wonder climbed my list and you know what? I enjoyed it more than I did many of the big blockbusters of 2017.
Focusing on a young boy named August (Auggie for short) who was born with a rare genetic disease that left with him facial deformities, Wonder is essentially just a look at this boy’s life as he traverses the complicated world of middle school. It takes a look at him and occasionally shifts its focus to other characters that play a part in Auggie’s life. I’m pleased that Jacob Tremblay took on this role. That’s not just because he’s utterly captivating as Auggie, but because he’d appeared last year in the abysmal Book of Henry and it would be a real shame for that movie to damage his budding career in the same way it did director Colin Trevorrow. Based on this, he should be fine. He imbues Auggie with a shy yet cheerful enthusiasm. From the moment he first appears on screen bouncing on a bed wearing an Astronaut’s helmet, it’ so easy to root for this kid and to want nothing but the best for him. When he was sad, so was I and that’s down to him, and a very sharp script.
Wonder does a brilliant job at making this school life believable and never overselling moments. The other children that Auggie interacts with, the kind head teacher (played brilliantly by Mandy Patinkin), everyone there feels like they are genuine people. It helps the film become absorbing and it’s nice to see that it doesn’t ever really try to throw in something overblown or action orientated, it’s confident enough to just let the characters lead the story.
The supporting cast are also great. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson deliver nuanced performances that show the struggles they are going through as parents to not only Auggie, but to Via who often feels neglected as the child that doesn’t need the extra care. Izabela Vidovic does great work here too as Via. Her feelings of neglect are understandable but again, the writers don’t feel the need to play this up. There isn’t a lot of screaming, shouting or melodrama that you might expect, instead the story just moves along and gives time to allow these issues to be resolved. Hell, even Vis’a love story subplot works and is given the same kind of restraint.
Perhaps the only character that feels a tad redundant is Via’s friend, Miranda. She is given some time in the spotlight after a falling out with Via, but the reasons for the dissolution of the friendship and her back story never really amount to anything. It’s not the fault of actress Danielle Rose Russell, but if Miranda were removed from the film entirely, well I don’t think it would make much of a difference to the final product.
Wonder though is a beautiful and uplifting film. It tells its story of acceptance perfectly and by the time it drew to a close, I found myself wishing it could have gone on longer. These are characters that I could happily have spent more time with.