Wonder review: Jacob Tremblay leads the cast of this warming winter wonder, a film that is peppered with endearing performances across the whole cast.
Wonder review by Andrew Gaudion.
Sentiment, in any form, can be tricky. If you pour too much syrupy whimsy on top, many an audience member could back away from the sickly sweet concoction in front of them. The balance has to be just right, not only to engage the viewer, but to also earn that level of sentimentality. If you want to make your audience cry, you better make sure you’re not taking any cheap shots, otherwise you en up undermining your own story.
On the surface of it, Wonder looks to be a concoction that would fall into this sickly sweet category, one that may be little too much to swallow for some audience members. While it can be guilty over the occasional moment of sap, Stephen Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) seems to have avoided the many pratfalls of sentimentality to concoct a film that is rewarding, charming, very sweet, and with a heart as big as the planet.
Wonder tells the story of 10-year old August ‘Auggie’ Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), who was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic facial disorder. Having been home schooled for most of his life, his parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson) make the decision to send Auggie to a mainstream elementary school for the very first time.
Wonder is undoubtedly sappy, but there is something so very wholesome, so very good natured about the proceedings that it is very hard not to be won over by Auggie’s story. We not only see Auggie’s struggle to fit in, but we also get different points-of-view of numerous individuals within Auggie’s life, showing how their lives are affected by him being present and the often powerful and beautiful influence he has on them.
One of the film’s greatest strengths is the casting of Tremblay. Having already proven to be an irresistibly adorable screen presence in Room, Tremblay uses all the tools in his arsenal to make Auggie an endearing screen presence under his layers of prosthetic. He’s very sweet, occasionally ill-tempered (as all 10-year old boys are from time to time) but it is easy to see why so many people respond to the character so positively; he’s just so darn lovable.
Related: Room review
The film is peppered with endearing performances across the whole cast. Roberts and Wilson are inspired casting as Auggie’s parents, both being very cosy and familiar presences not just for Auggie but also for us as audience members. Supporting turns from the likes of Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs also do a great deal to ensure a certain feeling of fuzziness across the proceedings.
Not everything works; the odd divulgence of perspective can feel a little frivolous, with some viewpoints proving to be a lot more relatable than others. It is also a film in which not a great deal of incident occurs. The pacing slackens, particularly as it moves into a third act that often feels like its stumbling around in the dark looking for the exit, but by this point our investment is secured and our adoration for the characters is enough to carry the film across the finish line.
Wonder is perfect winter cinema viewing. While it may be cold and blustery outside, it is nice to know there is a film playing that will warm up your cockles with the level of comfort that you thought only your most treasured hot water bottle could conjure. It is guaranteed to melt even the most cynical of hearts, proving to be an endearing and wholesomely uplifting story of family, love and tolerance. Take your partner, take your Mum, take your Dad, Grandparent, sibling, whoever; just make sure that to see it with someone that you love.
Wonder review by Andrew Gaudion, November 2017.
Wonder is released in UK cinemas on Friday 1st December.