Mild spoilers ahead.
Three years ago, I read R.J. Palacio’s novel Wonder, and earlier today, I watched the film adaptation with my family. Not to sound cliché, but it truly was a wonder.Wonder is about Auggie Pullman (portrayed by Jacob Tremblay), a fifth grader with Treacher Collins syndrome (essentially a severe facial deformity). Due to his face, Auggie has never attended a real school, and his mother homeschooled him. The summer before he started fifth grade, his mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), and father, Nate (Owen Wilson), decided that it’s time for him to start going to a real school. Partly because the longer they waited, the harder it’d be to integrate him into a school, and partly because of Auggie’s mother’s math skills.
Auggie agrees, and it’s off to Beecher Prep he goes. Not all of the students are instantly welcoming, but he finds true friends in his classmates Summer Dawson (Millie Davis) and Jack Will (Noah Jupe).
The school year has ups and downs for the other characters in the story as well: at first glance, Wonder seems to revolve around Auggie, but it doesn’t. By the time the novel ends, you get a look into the heads of several of the other characters. Aside from Auggie, sections of the novel are narrated by Via (Auggie’s older sister; portrayed by Izabela Vidovic), Jack, Justin (Via’s boyfriend; portrayed by Nadji Jeter), and Miranda (Via’s former best friend; portrayed by Danielle Rose Russel). Each of the characters has their own connection to Auggie, and they all have their own distinctive narrative voices.
All of that transferred beautifully into the screenplay, which was written by Stephen Chbosky (who wrote the The Perks of Being a Wallflower and the screenplay for this year’s reboot of Beauty and the Beast). Both the film and the novel were heartwarming, emotional, and humorous, and it was wondrous seeing the novel come to life.
Auggie’s story is a story that anyone can relate to, no matter how old or how young. Everyone has some experience with dealing with bullying, whether they were the target or a bystander (or even, God forbid, the instigator). Each of the supporting characters has a storyline that is relatable as well.
I found myself relating to Via’s storyline: at the beginning of the school year, she discovers that one of her closest friends, Miranda, has changed entirely. Miranda stops talking to Via entirely after a series of awkward interactions, and Via is hurt by the collapse of their friendship. I had a similar experience with a former friend, and seeing it play out on screen was incredible to watch. Vidovic’s performance was outstanding, and she was truly the perfect actress for Via.
Overall, reading the book and seeing the movie was a wonderful experience. The movie packed plenty of emotional punches (I normally don’t cry at movies, but I shed tears three times during this movie) but it was also funny and real when it needed to be. The novel is great to read when you need a pick-me-up, and the movie is sure to be fun for the whole family.
If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, I recommend you do so immediately!