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Review: Wonder has triumph but not the adversity

PUBLISHED: 17:21 02 December 2017 | UPDATED: 17:23 02 December 2017

Jacob Tremblay as Auggie Pullman and Julia Roberts as Isabel Pullman in Wonder. Photo: Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette

Jacob Tremblay as Auggie Pullman and Julia Roberts as Isabel Pullman in Wonder. Photo: Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette

Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette

Adapted from the award-winning 2012 novel by RJ Palacio, Stephen Chbosky’s emotional family saga has Room star Jacob Tremblay playing a boy with a rare genetic syndrome, and Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as his parents.

Julia Roberts as Isabel Pullman and Owen Wilson as Nate Pullman in Wonder. Photo: Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette Julia Roberts as Isabel Pullman and Owen Wilson as Nate Pullman in Wonder. Photo: Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette

Wonder (PG)

***

Wonder, based on a best selling book by R. J. Palacio, tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a young boy born looking like a middle aged woman.

Given that a combination of a rare genetic disorder and the scars from the plastic surgery used to partially correct it have left him with an unfortunate appearance you’d have thought his parents might have given him a haircut that didn’t bring to mind Sandi Toksvig.

Other than that though, you couldn’t wish for better, more loving, generous and, let’s not deny it, wealthy parents than Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson.

Nadji Jeter as Justin and Izabela Vidovic as Olivia Pullman in Wonder. Photo: Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette Nadji Jeter as Justin and Izabela Vidovic as Olivia Pullman in Wonder. Photo: Lionsgate Films/Dale Robinette

After years of home school, they decide to risk sending him to school, though a very exclusive public school run by the wisest of all principles, Patinkin.

Stephen Chbosky’s previous film, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, took the travails of being a teenager at face value, and this film focuses on the kids.

I’d assumed the film would be Julia Roberts and her bond with her son, like Cher in Mask, but the film is more a vehicle for Jack Trembley, previously best known for narrowly missing out on an Oscar nomination for his stunning performance in the 2015 film Room.

The plot works its way through the interlocking stories of Auggie, his overlooked older sister Olivia (Izabela Vidovic), those who befriend him, including Jack Will (Noah Jupe) and Summer (Millie Davis), and the sister’s former best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell).

Roberts as his mother Isabel is still fairly central, but Wilson as Auggie’s concerned father Nate pretty much fritters around on the periphery.

You’d anticipate his school days being tough, and the film of his story being sentimental: and they are, but much less than expected.

The film is all about the uplift; it’s a big generous portion of triumph but going easy on the adversity. This may be why audiences seem to love this film so much. They used to be able to go through a bit of misery to earn the exultation. These days, who needs the aggravation?

If I’m being honest, I didn’t really warm to the kid. The film is all about tolerance and promoting kindness but it seemed to me that the film was about his struggle to be as stuck up and entitled as his school mates.

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