We’ve all experienced our fair share of first days of school: they’re usually uncomfortable, exciting and strange all at the same time. And as time goes by, those feelings disappear. That is, until the next one comes around.
But when you’re August “Auggie” Pullman, a boy born with a facial deformity that has prevented him from going to school, you’ve never had the painful pleasure of experiencing the first day of school.
If you read the best-selling novel by R.J. Palacio, then you probably wondered the same things I did. Like whether or not the movie stays true to the alternating narrative style, and how exactly Tremblay will become Auggie, as far as faces go.
Tremblay, who had to endure two hours of makeup each day of filming, became unrecognizable with the use of contact lenses, dentures, a wig, and specific prosthetics applied to his face.
As for the narration, in order to stay true to Palacio’s style used in the book, the film’s director Stephen Chbosky separated Wonder into chapters, each told from the perspective of a different character.
The film starts off with the narration of a troubled child living in a society where physical appearance so often determines a person’s worth, but it expands to a tear-jerking movie about community, human connection, the choice to be kind, and the idea that in our own way we can all be extraordinary.
Through Auggie’s perspective, we realize that despite his face, he is a lot like other little boys: He likes Star Wars and learning about space. He loves his family, which consists of his sister, Via, and their two parents.
We also see that Auggie is neither impressionable nor naive. In fact, at a surprisingly young age, Auggie developed a playful bitterness, and somewhat of self-deprecating humor in response to this particular social ostracism.
Auggie’s facial deformity, that demanded dozens of surgeries, may have prepared him for the disdain and disapproval of other kids’ but nothing prepared him for the surprising friendship with one kid, Jack Will (Noah Jupe).
Jack befriended Auggie by sitting with him at lunch, sharing a desk in class, and playing video games after school. Yet interestingly enough, it is this long-overdue connection with another kid that winds up leaving Auggie susceptible to hurt later on.
As the film jumps around from the different perspectives of other characters, we meet Auggie’s older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), who learned early on that she will always be on the back burner of priority to her parents.
“Auggie is the sun,” she tells us in voiceover, a hint of sorrow in her voice, “And my dad and mom and I are the planets orbiting the sun.”
Via’s mundane concern with losing her best friend Miranda, starting high school, meeting a new boy (Nadji Jeter), and trying out for drama class, are all eclipsed by Auggie’s needs.
Via’s problems would naturally push a young girl to seek some motherly advice, but her mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), gave up working on her Ph.D. and much of her life in order to care for Auggie. She is now in no position to be disturbed.
Wonder succeeded in pulling at the heartstrings, but it failed to acknowledge the truth about living with a facial deformity.
The Pullman’s are living on a single parent income, yet they can afford to send both of their kids to private school, as well pay off their hospital bills. Realistically, people within the facial difference community struggle to financially support themselves.
Despite the unrealistic representation, the film proves to be just as moving through the perspective of a few other characters, including Jack Will and Miranda.
Through their complex backstories, we begin to understand the power of accumulating points of view, and come to a couple of conclusions: If everyone started talking a little less and listening to a little more we would learn why people essentially act the way they do. You never know what another person might be going through so it’s important to be patient and have empathy.
Out of all the “wonder” titled movies that came out last year (Wonder Woman and Wonder Wheel, to name a few), this one proves to be the most emotionally impacting, and gives us all the friendly reminder to never blend in when you were born to stand out.