I like to cry at movies, like I’m drawn to emotional dramas and inspiring tales of perseverance. When I saw the trailer for Wonder I knew that I’d probably cry the entire time. That doesn’t necessarily make a movie good though, so did this one manage to achieve the balance needed?
Our main character Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) was born with a facial deformity commonly called Treacher Collins Syndrome. This movie starts as Auggie is about to enter 5th grade, after previously being home-schooled. His mother (Julia Roberts) and father (Owen Wilson) struggle with how to prepare him for this, while his sister (Izabela Vidovic) tries to make her own way in the world. Auggie has struggles with his classmates, notably those played by Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar, and Millie Davis.
From beginning to end, this movie had me under its spell. When it wanted me to laugh, I laughed. When it wanted me to cry, I cried. The emotional rollercoaster here is a turbulent one but it manages to balance all these emotions perfectly. This could have easily felt like an emotionally manipulative movie, just hitting the notes to make you feel something, but it also has a sense of authenticity, like this is a real world you’re peeking into.
This authenticity comes from its stellar cast. Young Jacob Tremblay delivers an outstanding performance as our lead Auggie. He’s also surrounded by incredible talent, including Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, who both give great performances (though are maybe underused).
Another factor that keeps this movie from becoming a cliche is its unique structure, that it chooses to actually leave our main character for stints, to focus on the supporting cast. This movie focuses on how Auggie affects our characters, even while they live their lives away from him. It’s a great way to make this world feel real, yet it all comes back to Auggie in the end.
While many of you will think of this movie as a “tearjerker,” I was actually impressed at how light and fun this movie could be. The colors are vibrant, music upbeat, and the movie is generally really fun, even when immediately contrasted with some pretty intense moments.
What didn’t work?
I only have two small complaints, which keep this movie from a perfect score.
Some of the child actors aren’t great, which really stands out against Tremblay’s superb performance. Some of these intense moments are underwhelming because of a really fake performance from a child actor and that’s a bummer.
My only other thing is that both Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson don’t really get much to do. While a lot of characters get stories and snippets about their lives, these two surprisingly don’t. Especially Owen Wilson, he only really exists to add levity, we don’t learn anything about him.
Wonder is absolutely a good time and a really important movie for kids to watch, as it teaches them some important lessons, in a way that is fun and fresh. For adults like me, it pulled at my heartstrings in the best way possible and still has me thinking about this film. I wouldn’t be surprised to see young Tremblay maybe get a nomination for this performance.