Wonder: A Refreshing Tearjerker

Mitchell Rolling

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Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder, based on the children’s book by RJ Palacio, was a film that lived up to all the hype of a tearjerker. It also included a good storyline, giving viewers a happy surprise.

Wonder tells the story of an average ten-year-old kid with a not-so-average facial deformity, Treacher Collins Syndrome. Auggie has already gone through 27 surgeries because of the disease. 

Other than his face, Auggie comes across as a normal kid. He likes sci-fi movies, he wants to be an astronaut, he’s good at science, and most importantly, he loves Halloween. This special holiday allows him to dress up and wear a mask with all the other kids, making him feel ordinary for just one day. 

The plot starts when Auggie’s mother, Isabel (Julia Roberts), decides that it is time for Auggie to end home-schooling and enter middle school for the beginning of 5th grade. Both Auggie and his dad, Nate (Owen Wilson), oppose the idea immediately, arguing that Auggie would only be made fun of by other classmates.

By this time in the movie, viewers are getting ready for a sob-story about how a young boy with a facial deformity defied all odds with the backing of his family and made school a worthwhile experience. While that storyline did play out, it was not the only story told within the film.

The refreshing twist to this movie, other than Owen Wilson’s much-needed humor, is that it provides insight into other characters. The focus on Auggie is interrupted numerous times, which brings attention away from the obvious ending about to play out. 

Auggie’s older sister, Via (Izabela Vidovic), is in the background at first and seems only to be there as support for her brother. When the film switches its focus to her, the viewers realize that, while she is more than willing to help her brother, she feels neglected by the people closest to her: mom, dad, her best friend Miranda, and Auggie.  

We also get insight into when Auggie’s first friend, Jack Will, betrayed their friendship by telling other classmates that if he looked like Auggie he would kill himself. Viewers learn that Jack Will was just nice to Auggie at first because the principal had asked him to. Eventually, though, Jack finds himself enjoying Auggie’s company and even chooses his friendship over others in school. 

The comments Jack Will made about killing himself, which Auggie hears, highlight one of the movie’s central themes: people are not perfect. 

We see this theme again when the movie dives into the story of Miranda, Via’s friend who went away to summer camp and comes back a different person. More than just ditching Via for a more popular crowd, Miranda is embarrassed to come face-to-face with her friend. After experiencing a rough family life in the summer, she pretended to be Via at summer camp and became very well-liked because of it. 

But even with this theme of imperfection, by the end we are brought back to yet another perfect ending to a fairytale story. Almost everything works out as desired by the time the movie concludes. Isabel finishes her dissertation, Via lands a lead role in a school play, the bully at Auggie’s school gets in trouble, Jack Will and Auggie become friends again, and Auggie is one of the most well-liked kids in his school. 

The movie ends with a standing ovation for Auggie after he wins an award for being such an awesome kid.