With the over-consumption of action movies in recent months, Wonder just arrived in the nick of time to counterbalance the fight and battles. It provides some warmth that simply should be embraced by everyone. Melting our soft spots for this movie can be a rewarding experience. As the melodramatic essence turns the whole cinema into a cry-fest, one of the contributing factors of shedding tears is the universal lesson about physical appearance.
‘I know I’m not an ordinary 10-year-old kid,’ says Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) at the opening scene. Wearing an astronaut’s helmet does not mark any real happiness, but the only way to hide his congenital facial deformity. What happens to him over the course of family and school life is both troubling and triumphant. When being shoved into public school after being home-schooled by his loving mother, Isabel Pullman (Julia Roberts), Auggie faces exceptionally cruel judgements imparted by the society. The process of a scarred young face entering the outer space is undoubtedly driven by reluctance and fear which petrify him from establishing connection to people. But, his defect inadvertently makes him come into contact with the real meaning of our nature. In the world of this film, Wonder probes some life’s issues that one could encounter.
His ugliness testifies the deepest level of humanity—Empathy.
While the present era is mindlessly obsessed with the notion of physical beauty, Auggie’s appearance becomes a reminder that—Look is not everything. The virtues of Auggie: kindness, helpfulness and sense of humour, these internal values have a knack for winning people over. This becomes the approach he builds friendship with Jack Will (Noah Jupe), who initially only pretends to be friend with him, but eventually abandons his prior prejudice and resonates with the authenticity projected by his playmate.
The collective human growth that drives empathy forward also takes place between Auggie and his mother. When the sad-puppy kiddo collapses from bully at school, Robert’s maternal encouragement is a strong injection of familial love. Although it requires gut to watch their conversation as it is portrayed extra earnest, the truth is, the scene prompts us to reconsider the value of family. Because with dreadful hardship, your beloved ones at home inhabit such grace to accept your vulnerability and pain, Roberts convinces us so. Integral to ourselves, the sense of belonging has never felt so real when your family is able to provide concrete consolation in cheering up a poor soul like you:
‘You are not ugly, Auggie,’ his mum tells him when she hears about his endurance of mocking.
‘You just have to say that because you’re my mum,’ he drenched in tears.
‘Because I am your mom it counts the most because I know you the most.’ Her assertion teaches us a little something about storge. It is the inclusivity that makes them care compassionately for one another. Up until this point, I already sobbed into my popcorn.
While much of the attention diverting us into Auggie’s misfortune, being ordinary also has its set of difficulty. For instance, Auggie’s older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), we learn from her that everybody feels a sense of isolation and loneliness once in a while but human interest can mitigate this phenomenon.
The obvious bias of Pullman family is Auggie’s primal defects that evoke the parents’ privileged solicitude. Even though Via always plays the role of sensible responder to her little brother’s well-being, Pullman’s parenting skill is unavoidably lopsided to Auggie. When they dwell on his development too much, Via is inadvertently ignored.
I like the narrative structure that not only emphasises the flawed Auggie, but by organising it into different chapters, it helps to flesh out the depth of Via’s struggle—having lower priority for her family over the years. She chooses to reach out to others for gaining a light amount of compensating emotional support. Ironically, her closest friend in the world, Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell) has suddenly stopped talking to her, but midway through, she explains what happened at summer camp that made her turn away. Miranda tells us in voiceover with a touch of guilt: ‘Everyone has his or her reasons,’ the most visceral statement that roars the unexplainable pain of behaving badly. They believe pathos do not simply emerge from nowhere, it’s natural for us to feel isolated and the power of soul-mate can revive your self-worth. Remember, lonely people are all over the world and they need to speak to one another.
Wonder is an effective portrayal of human tale. The film does not fall into the trap of over-mawkishness, it makes you an unsolicited tear-jerker and internalises your emotional see-sawing really well. Praise the educational value to kids, it is a great material to teach them empathy and sympathy. But the resonation comes more organic if you watch it from an adult’s perspective, their performances ring through you with more truth of human being. It’s a film with delicate pacing and a big heart.