August “Auggie” Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) was born with a genetic condition that resulted in facial deformation. Countless surgeries have made it so he can breathe, see, and hear better, but still doesn’t look “normal”. Auggie’s parents, Nate (Owen Wilson) and Isabel (Julia Roberts), do everything possible to help him be the best he can be and well as try to protect him from the cruelty of the world. Isabel has been homeschooling him, making sure he learns everything he can. They also allow him to wear his space helmet whenever he isn’t comfortable. His sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) is one of Auggie’s biggest supporters. She has resigned herself to the fact that Auggie will take most of her parents’ attention but doesn’t bear any resentment towards him for it.
Auggie is going into fifth grade and will be attending public school for the first time. Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), the principal, has arranged for Auggie and his parents to come in before school to get a better feel of what it is like. He has also arranged for three of Auggie’s classmates to show him around the school and get to know him. Julian (Bryce Gheisar), Charlotte (Elle McKinnon), and Jack Will (Noah Jupe) take Auggie from classroom to classroom, telling him what they can about the school.
When school starts, Auggie finds, expectedly, that most of the kids just stare at him and make fun of him. Julian, who at first seemed to like Auggie, is one of the most vocal kids. He has taken to openly harassing Auggie. Jack Will seems to be one of the few who actually like him. But even Jack may not be as accepting as he appears.
Wonder shares the tale that many kids most likely face when going into the real world. We are not always accepting of those who do not look like us.
While Owen Wilson, Julia Roberts, and Mandy Patinkin are the big names in the movie, and they do well as Auggie’s parents and principal, the real stars are the kids in the movie. Jacob Tremblay, who may not have many credits to his name yet, gives a good performance as a boy who is shunned by his peers. Barely recognizable, he really shines as the reserved yet resilient Auggie. The characters portrayed by Bryce Gheisar, Elle McKinnon, and Noah Jupe are realistic. It is Izabela Vidovic who, perhaps, who gives the best performance. She walks the line between loving sister and neglected daughter with heart and authenticity.
The story is uncomfortable at times and all too real for the world we live in. It is too easy to dismiss the feelings of those who are different and don’t fit in. Yet, if you take the time, you will find they aren’t really all that different. Director Stephen Chbosky weaves the story as told through viewpoints of different characters, giving each of their perspectives on particular events. There are times when the story lines are a little bit of a stretch, but it can be forgiven.
Wonder is a story that hits close to home for many. It is both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. It is definitely a good movie to see with your kids. It may give them a little insight into the world and how to be more compassionate. At the very least, it will be a good conversation starter.