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Accept, Show Compassion, Choose Kind

I love the poster for Wonder. The three stars – Julia Roberts (Isabel, the mother), Owen Wilson (Nate, the father), and Jacob Tremblay (Auggie, the son) – walk towards the viewer, holding hands. A small dog walks, tongue hanging out, at Auggie’s feet. Auggie has an astronaut helmet on and a big smile. Nate, wearing a sharp suit and blue Chuck Taylor All-Stars, looks over at Isabel with that cheeky Owen Wilson grin. Isabel, wearing some killer shoes of her own, looks off into the middle distance with a contented look on her face. The tagline says, “Who Gives You the Courage to Face the World.” Another tagline for this movie is “Choose Kind.”

You can’t really tell from the poster that Auggie has a facial deformity, which is why he is wearing the astronaut helmet. But now you know that, you’ll guess that this movie is going to be an uplifting, heartwarming story of how Auggie overcomes his physical challenges with the help of his supportive parents. You might also fear that it’s going to be darn near impossible for the movie to avoid plunging into melodrama and sentimental schmaltz. Apparently, however, it mostly avoids that fate, such that it genuinely earns its moments of emotion.

Wonder is, unsurprisingly, based on a best-selling children’s book, the debut novel by R. J. Palacio in this case. It is directed by Stephen Chbosky, who previously directed the superb The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012). Seasoned actors Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are generally good whatever movie they’re in, but here they give strong performances and the movie is decent too. Canadian actor Jacob Tremblay was fantastic in Room (2015), which I wrote about in a previous Civic Theatre blog post, so it’s no surprise he nails his role here too. Izabela Vidovic, who plays Auggie’s older sister Via, also puts in a performance that knocks it out of the park.

It sounds like this is an easy movie to like, but with a true power and depth to it. And such a movie can provide a welcome relief to big-budget, effects-heavy superhero epics, raunchy comedies, or dystopian teen flicks. Not that the latter don’t have their appeal. It’s just that it can be nice to occasionally watch a movie where you’re not exhausted by the end. And if your eyes water a little by the end, that’s OK too.

Iain Pardoe is an online university instructor who enjoys the movies of Hayao Miyazaki even more than the kids and loves rewatching favourites from his youth with his family when he’s not playing soccer or skiing.