- James Mottram
- 27 November 2017
Heartstring-tugging family drama starring Julia Roberts and Jacob Tremblay
Filmgoers of a certain age may well remember the 1985 film Mask, starring Eric Stoltz as a teenager with a facial deformity and Cher as his biker gang mother. Based on the novel by RJ Palacio, Wonder feels like a less edgy update of that scenario, as a young boy with similar issues contends with his first days at school.
August 'Auggie' Pullman (Room's Jacob Tremblay) has been homeschooled for years after enduring 27 operations to correct his facial abnormalities. His parents (Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson) are naturally concerned about their little boy confronting the cruel realities of playground bullying; sending a 'lamb to the slaughter' as Wilson's Nate puts it.
Auggie's default outfit includes an astronaut's helmet, given to him by Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), friend to his older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic), but entering fifth grade means removing the disguise once and for all. Immediately, he faces taunting from spoilt kid Julian (Bryce Gheisar), but there's a resilience and stoicism to Auggie that is enough to melt your heart.
Directed by Stephen Chbosky, who previously adapted his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower into a film, Wonder is smartly engineered to ensure the focus is not just Auggie. Divided into chapters, each is devoted to a different character, including Via who has her own issues growing up.
True, the film is set in a world of Manhattan privilege (lending it an unsavoury, alienating gloss). But Chbosky manages a neat high-wire act, plucking your heartstrings without coating the story in bucket-loads of sugar. Much of this is down to the cast – notably the excellent Tremblay, expertly backed by Roberts and Wilson. And, as family entertainment goes, Wonder is able to cater for everyone.
General release from Fri 1 Dec.