Wonder combats prejudicial bullying by presenting a tender story that warmed my heart. As an avid watcher of dark dramas tackling depression and suicidal tendencies, the thought of experiencing Wonder wasn't one that rushed to my mind. Light mainstream dramas, notably those adapted from best-selling novels, tend to be overly sentimental in an attempt to make the audience weep. Whilst I did find this adaptation to share some unnecessary sentimentality, the inescapable warmth and heart that it exhumed surprisingly overwhelmed me. To a point where I nearly, emphasis on nearly, shredded a tear towards the end. Not because of the overabundance of melodrama, fortunately that was kept to a minimum, but due to the personable characters that make the family worth investing in. A young boy named August with a facial deformity attends a public school for the first time, having been home-schooled by his mother, and must overcome the social anxiety of entering the real-world.
The true wonderment to behold here is the script, and really is the prized possession of this film. It handles a delicate situation like this without succumbing to over exposure, melodramatic sentimentality and unnecessary plot details that purposefully forces the viewer to cry. It earns its tenderness by being, well, earnest. August could've easily been portrayed to be this overly sympathetic boy whom of which we all feel sorry for, however the writers intelligently transform him into a symbol of optimism. Occasionally August falls into the trap of being selfish by remarking on his deformities when things do not necessarily go his way, which unfortunately is executed in a rather heavy-handed way that inadvertently decreases his charm.
However the segregated narrative structure, which follows the viewpoints of specific characters during the same time duration, keeps the pacing fresh and represents a sense of unity for this family. The story might be wholly focused on August, but it shows how the lives of others around him are also affected. Some of these perspectives work really well, particularly his sister and new friend at school. Some of the other hand do not, especially Miranda, which deters the intent focus away from August and acts as a filler rather than constructive character development. Still, this accessible structure retained the film's light tone and certainly threw me off guard (for the better!).
Another winning aspect is the cast, and what a perfectly rounded cast it is. Roberts and Wilson make doting parents and fortunately get plenty of time onscreen to support Tremblay's central performance which was a resounding masterclass. He has been one to watch since 'Room' and he is really proving himself to be a capable actor. The perfect balance of childish behaviour whilst maintaining maturity to convey those all important themes, to put it simply I was amazed. The makeup used to showcase August's facial scarring was exceptionally realistic and assisted in elevating Tremblay's performance. Loved Chbosky's various directing flairs, particularly his visual style when August is talking directly to us. The astronaut segments mixed in with the 'Star Wars' elements were a nice touch at portraying August's vivid imagination.
My last nitpick would be with the third act. I felt it could've ended after Via's play, instead of showing the nature reserve trip which essentially repeats the same plot details as before, particularly the bullies now standing up for August. It just would've made the film tighter and less drawn out, keeping that wondrous warmth safe. I also found the ending to be somewhat sentimental, with the award being given to the wrong person (I shan't spoil it...).
Yet, from someone who doesn't usually enjoy these fluffy sweet dramas that come packaged with the word "nice", I found this to be a pleasant story. Beautiful characters, resonating story and pure heartwarming. Wonder is, get ready for it, wonderful.