Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay, who due to complications at birth, and the subsequent operations, has a facial disfigurement. Due to this he has been home schooled for most of his life, until he decides to start going to a “real” school. Wonder shows the best side of people and the worst in a way that feels authentic.
Jacob Tremblay is an extremely talented actor considering his age, his role in ‘Room’ and now here which is a much more difficult role he is very convincing for a large part of the film. The emotional scenes really pack a punch, you believe this little boy has this affliction and empathise with his situation. Every time there is a powerful scene Tremblay absolutely brings it to the table and at times, shows up Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts. Tremblay isn’t perfect though, there are some scenes where he is awful, either missing the tone or seemingly not trying. However, he is still only young, as far as child actors go, he’s easily in the upper echelon.
Owen Wilson plays August’s father and here he accesses the Wes Anderson directed Owen Wilson, instead of the fluff romantic comedy side of himself. At first it seemed Wilson really stood out next to Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay, but Wilson definitely dug himself in and became this cool dad that also has worries and fears. His on-screen wife and mother to August, played by Julia Roberts is definitely given the more flashy and emotional role of the two, and she’s excellent, giving a truly heartfelt performance. She was the emotional anchor of the film, the most relatable in most instances, just wanting her family to be happy, worrying about her son’s first few days at school. Wilson and Roberts match each other perfectly, both giving great performances and bring the film a lot of its warmth.
Mandy Patinkin was brilliant as Mr Tushman, August’s principal, every scene he was in he gave off this feeling of authority but also kindness. It’s honestly refreshing that almost none of the adults were made to look villainous, which is often a trope for similar films. Also, Izabela Vidovic, who plays August’s sister Via, she deserves a special mention as her performance started off kind of rocky, but once her story kicks into gear she was great, she seemed so natural and warm. There’s a scene with her on the beach and it just smacks you with emotion, very good range for a younger actress.
Stephen Chbosky, who directed ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is put behind the camera and he brings such a sense of wonder and almost fantasy in both that film and Wonder. There are some really fantastic shots of August running down the halls in a full spacesuit and it evokes such happiness in all the characters, that are all shot in slow motion, the joy is truly infectious in this film.
The story was great, if a little heavy handed. There were some moments that didn’t quite fit, especially the Star Wars characters, that felt a little too goofy for what is a serious but joyful film. The trip to the national park also seemed superfluous to the plot except for one moment that could have been staged anywhere. The whole subplot with the dog seemed tacked on and just there to get an emotional response from the audience. It felt cheap, especially in such a powerful film that was bound to garner a deep emotional response from a lot of people.
The ending was perfect, couldn’t ask for a better ending, but there was a lot of scenes that occurred in the run up to the end scene that felt like any of them could have been the ending, it was shocking but also a relief that the film ended when it did.
Wonder is a warm, fun and deep film, that sometimes hits the life lessons into your chest, and occasionally takes you away from the main story for a few pointless, if nice, scenes.