GAVIN MILLER reviews Wonder
They say leave the best ’til last – and with the year nearly at a close this heart-warming gem is one of 2017’s stand-outs.
Very rarely does a film put a lump in my throat, but this family drama manages to do just that – but not necessarily in the way expected.
Based on the New York Times bestseller, this up-and-down tale tells the inspiring story of August ‘Auggie’ Pullman – played by Jacob Tremblay who received critical acclaim next to Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning turn in Room – a boy with facial differences from New York’s Manhattan who’s attending mainstream elementary school for the first time.
While his disfigurements – caused by a genetic anomaly – aren’t on an Eric Stoltz in Mask-level, the petrified boy has to hide behind a NASA astronaut helmet while out with his doting parents, Isabel (Julia Roberts) and Nate (Owen Wilson), afraid of people glaring at his ugliness.
But the movie throws a refreshing curveball by not just focusing on the woes of his terrifying introduction to school life, but that of his shunned (but still loving) older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), her ex-best friend who’s trying to get over her parents’ break-up Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), and Auggie’s academically-challenged best buddy Jack (Noah Jupe) – which proves everyone has varying degrees of problems in life.
Unsurprisingly the main storyline tract still centres on Auggie as he battles bullying – primarily from Bryce Gheisar’s Julian – but keeps his integrity intact as he stays true to himself, and shows he’s a science whizz in the process. As well as also being a massive Star Wars and Boba Fett fan.
And it’s through these multiple peaks and troughs that it borders on being a tear-jerker in a light-hearted fist-pumping way, as much as a ‘let’s all feel sorry for Auggie’ kind of way, which the film could have easily hidden behind.
It might fall a touch short of being an Oscar-contender due to some elements not quite being fleshed-out enough and being a touch too sentimental in spells, but for the most part the director of The Perks of Being a Wallflower gets the balance between drama and ‘mushiness’ spot on.
And by the end it will leave you grinning wonderfully from ear-to-ear as the CV of the barely recognisable Tremblay continues to grow with another noteworthy outing that is a welcome relief from blockbuster overload.