Harry Potter first stormed the wizarding world back in 1997, and it would be 12 years later that another young man would steal the hearts of millions. This middle-schooler in Manhattan would have no magical powers and significantly more facial scars than just a lightning bolt. But Wonder’s Auggie (August) Pullman would collect heartstrings like wildflowers as he longed for community and normality, despite his alienating facial deformity.
Used to hospital surgeries and homeschooled lessons, Auggie’s story begins when he braves the waters of mainstream education at Beecher Middle School. While lunch tables, locker combinations, and class changes provide enough stress for most 10-year-olds, Auggie’s life-long facial abnormalities ensure first-glance shudders and repulsed proximal encounters. He wonders if any classmates will ever stop staring and finally start seeing.
The complexity of beauty, bullying, and self-love is often flatly untangled in modern storylines. However, Wonder’s relationship dynamics and resolutions are refreshing as a result of its simplicity. Rather than centering on a dramatic plot twist, Wonder capitalizes on its personality, heart, and endearing one-liners.
“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind,” says Auggie’s English teacher, Mr. Browne.
R.J. Palacio’s children’s book Wonder has remained on the New York Times bestseller list since its release in 2012, no doubt providing a loyal fanbase for Stephen Chbosky’s 2017 adaptation. The film made $27 million in just its opening weekend.
Some aspects of the novel were altered to create a breviate cinematic experience, but impressively enough, the narrative and style of the film feel like a true echo to the novel. Similar to how some of the book’s chapters feature more than one point-of-view, multiple Wonder characters share the camera lens, leading viewers through their various perspectives. While this disorients viewers at first, eventually the audience comes to appreciate the insight.
Jacob Tremblay is easy to fall in love with in his charming portrayal of an imaginative and humorous Auggie. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are an unlikely couple as Auggie’s parents, but they individually characterize a parent’s grief and complicated hope. Child actors Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar, Elle McKinnon, and Millie Davis remind you of your middle-school self, an overwhelmed 5th grader seeking friendship and approval among middle school messes. But it’s Izabela Vidovic’s depiction of Via, Auggie’s older sister, who exceptionally draws viewers’ empathy as she navigates high school and, with a humble posture, lets attention fall to her brother and his condition.
Wonder’s acting and multi-narratives take you through a plethora of emotions, confusing the typical identifications of protagonists and antagonists. And while you’ve fallen for Auggie Pullman within the first five minutes of the story, his happy ending isn’t the only one you’re left cheering for.
Palacio has released other reading companions to Wonder that feature in-depth perspectives from Auggie’s friends (and enemies!). To view a complete set of these texts and to find out more about Auggie’s friends, visit the author’s website here. Or to purchase the film on Blu-ray or DVD, head on over to Amazon here.
Wonder is rated PG for mild language and thematic elements such as bullying.
Featured Image by Porapak Apichodilok