*This post contains spoilers*
Wonder is another one of those books that I’ve heard about on and off over the past few years but never really had any desire to delve into it… until I saw the trailer for the film adaptation.
The story follows ten year old August Pullman who has been living with a facial disfigurement from the day he was born. He’s been home-schooled but his mother can only teach him so much and decides to enrol him in fifth grade as August will not be the only new kid starting. August battles through stares, whispers and outright abuse while gaining true friends along the way.
Having just read the book, the content was still very fresh in my mind. So straight away from an accuracy point of view, Wonder is the most accurate book to movie adaptation that I think I’ve ever seen. It can seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but straying too much from the source material is the easiest way for an adaptation to lose me completely. Wonder was also directed by Stephen Chbosky who wrote and directed The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and there are many stylistic similarities between the two.
A film with a focus on child actors always makes me nervous as a bad child actor can really derail a film. The role of Auggie is played by Jacob Tremblay (known for his lead role as Jack in Room) and he blows the part out of the water. He captured the true essence of Auggie’s personality and in the sadder moments, it was almost impossible to believe that he was just a child acting and now actually crying his heart out. The absolute standout actor for me was Noah Jupe who took on the role of Auggie’s best friend Jack Will; who was my favourite character from the book. Noah did a brilliant job of facial acting and his chemistry with Jacob made the friendship between these two characters feel believable.
I had a lot of issues with the use of multiple perspectives in the book and that’s one of the few aspects where I think the film did a better job of executing the intention. The different narratives are explored through voiceovers while the characters go about their day and the combination of that with the aerial, third person view of the film aided the experiences of the characters. For example, it was a lot easier to pick up on Viv being pushed aside as her parents focused on August in the film than in the book because the viewer can physically see Viv being side-lined and lounging around in the background.
Other actors that surprised me were the Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts who played the parts of Auggie’s parents. A clip of Owen Wilson in the trailer, along with an interview he did, are what really pushed me to devour this story and he pleasantly surprised me in this film. He is the typical, almost cliché “funny dad” there to break the tension at just the right moments and he really portrayed the loving father just trying to do the best to help out his child, along with paying Viv some attention unlike the preoccupied mother. When I looked into casting, Julia Roberts was the first one that I wasn’t I recognised but wasn’t too bothered about. Again, she surprised me and I found myself caring out – and appreciating the efforts of – the mother a lot more. Her chemistry with Owen did a great job of projecting that happy marriage and it was nice to see scenes of them together without the children.
I know that I’ve focused a lot on my thoughts surrounding the character portrayals, but in a heavily character driven story it’s too easy to focus on their efforts than anything outside of that. I will mention that I did love that the helmet featured a lot more in the film as it was an extra little thing to reflect Auggie’s character development throughout the story.
I left the cinema feeling emotionally drained but also overwhelmingly happy and satisfied. This adaptation keeps the real spirit of Wonder alive and showcases the importance of just being kind to others.