Star Rating: ⭐
‘Wonder’ is a poor interpretation of the life of someone with facial disfigurements
Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts team up to tell the story of their family, including their youngest son, 10-year-old Auggie who has a rare facial disfigurement.
For 10 years, Auggie has been home-schooled by his parents, played by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.
Now he must go to public school and face challenges that he hasn’t been exposed too, due to him being molly-coddled but his over-protective parents. He learns that he is the target of bullying and staring, due to his facial disfigurement.
This is a real eye-opener to what children and adults with facial disfigurements and in fact all types of disability can face on a daily basis. Children with disabilities who are subjected to staring and bullying do anything to avoid it. The character Auggie actually wears an astronaut helmet, which was a Christmas parent, every time he goes outside.
The film also allows the audience to get a glimpse into Auggie’s older teen sister Via’s (Izabela Vidovic) life. It’s heart-breaking to see how Via has a life and issues of her own and is feeling angry and conflicted that her parents are neglecting her needs in favour of Auggie.
This is also a view of a child’s life, who has a disabled sibling, who requires the attention of their parents. I know this may not be intentional in any way on the parents’ behalf, but it can happen.
Within Via’s story, the film describes how lonely she has become as a result of her parents neglecting her and the loss of her only ally and confidante was her late grandmother, played by Sônia Braga. This loneliness is increased by the breakdown of her friendship with her best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell).
This breakdown in friendship is after Miranda returns after a summer away at camp. Miranda’s sudden change in personality is reflected in trendy new hairstyle which is an attempt to remain amongst the popular crowd she has recently befriended.
More confused and hurt than ever, Via throws herself into trying something new in the form of trying out for the school play. This is where she meets a cute, hip, sensitive, glasses-wearing boy called Justin (Nadji Jeter). Via becomes more confident and builds a romance with Justin, which we see blossom throughout the film.
While Via’s story is being told, the audience gets a look into Miranda’s secret emotional journey. Compared to the other mini journeys that are featured in the film, I feel Miranda’s inner story has no depth of very little circumstance. Personally, I think the only reason why her story was featured was just to fill a gap in the film.
There are some very good, accurate themes coursing through the film, but I think the whole film is fabricated and downplayed for the audience’s eyes and minds. For instance, the character of Auggie is played by Jacob Tremblay, through the use of prosthetic makeup.
I can understand to a certain degree why this decision has been made to portray him like this. I think it’s to protect the audience in terms of not showing them anything that may scare them or any footage that may be inappropriate.
But by not having a person with this disability playing this part. It is not a fair and true representation and it completely undermines the messages they’re trying to portray during the film.
The performances by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts performances are half-hearted as they know they must downplay the emotion to not frighten audience members.
Every part of the film is fake as they have completely lost sight of the overall aim of this film and the messages they’re trying to convey. I do agree that the prosthetic makeup does look somewhat realistic, but it doesn’t change the fact that they have undermined everything they’ve done in creating the film.
I think it’s made this way to prevent difficult questions asked by audience members, regarding the themes shown in the film. People shy away from any questions regarding ‘disability’ and prefer not to answer it.
The film is based on the bestselling 2012 novel by RJ Palacio. The author wrote the novel based on their experience of seeing a girl with a facial disfigurement. In the film, the gender is switched and tells the story of a 10-year-old boy with facial disfigurements. The film focuses on 10-year-old Auggie’s looks and how people react to this. Though the reactions have some truth behind them, I think the responses are somewhat exaggerated.
A key example of this is when Auggie first shows up at school, he is greeted by the kindly, bearded principal (Mandy Patinkin) who has handpicked a group of pupils to show Auggie around. Jack Wills (Noah Jupe) and Julian (Bryce Gheisar).
Both of these characters show two very different responses to Auggie’s appearance. Jack sees past what Auggie looks and they soon become friends. Julian’s role in the school is the nasty, sneery bully who is horrible to Auggie and often mocks him.
The principal has a zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying and by showing the zero-tolerance attitude towards bullying, the film is able to project the theme of a zero-tolerance attitude towards being judgmental. These two themes are soon through Julian’s (Bryce Gheisar) bullying and judgmental behaviour.
The audience is able to get a brief look into Julian’s life and it shows his bullying and judgmental behaviour the fault of his smarmy parents. In fact, towards the end of the film, the audience finally glimpses Julian, smiley and happy as he joins in with the general acclaim for Auggie’s courage.
There are some good themes within the film which are explored, but the film barely scratches the surface and are fabricated to the extent that they have very little or no consequence which is a big disappointment. The importance of these themes is jeopardised even further by including back stories of almost all of the characters because there was no real complexity to them and it really takes the focus off the important and crucial messages the film is trying to convey to their audiences.