November 17, 2017
I have been waiting on pins and needles for the release of the new heartwarming film, Wonder. Based on the New York Times best-selling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder tells the story of 10-year old August “Auggie” Pullman, a young man born with severe disabilities. After having endured 27 surgeries, Auggie had extensive craniofacial abnormalities which made life as a 10-year old boy anything but ordinary. He brings to life the movie’s tagline, “You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”
I went to an advanced screening of Wonder with my dear editor and cousin (who makes magic happen here at KidNurse every week), her daughter, and my mom. We were all expecting to be impressed with this movie, but honestly, Wonder was so much better than I even hoped for.
I love films that champion children with disabilities. These overcomers are so precious and strong, and they deserve to have media recognition spotlighting their strength and stories. The World Health Organization estimates that 2-3% of all children are born with congenital anomalies, and many of these children have craniofacial abnormalities just like Auggie.
Also, I strongly believe that children without disabilities need to learn how to act, behave, and love children who look different or have different abilities than themselves. This movie did a superb job in highlighting this message while also combating the bully-culture so many children face in our educational systems today. For all those reasons, this film absolutely deserves your support.
Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson played Auggie’s parents. Julia is delightful (isn’t she always?) and perfectly represents the protective mother who will do anything for her son. I thought Owen did a particularly wonderful job being the funny but incredibly sincere, sensitive, and supportive father. There is a scene where Owen is telling Auggie how much he loves his son’s face, and I promise you will cry. The science-lover in me particularly enjoyed the advice that Owen gave Auggie on his first day of school: “Only raise your hand once in class no matter how many answers you know, except for science. Crush them.”
Indeed, Auggie’s love for science, space, and Star Wars not only brought light-hearted creativity to the film, but helped Auggie persevere through the challenges of going to public school for the first time as a 5th grader. At school, Auggie encounters all sorts of challenges from cruel children. Not only does the film address bullying head on, it also addresses children who are just polite but not truly supportive.
“It’s not enough to be friendly. You have to be a friend.”
Via is Auggie’s older sister and best friend. Her character did an amazing job at exploring the reality of being a sibling of a chronically ill child. Via loves her little brother and is incredibly supportive, but she goes through emotions of feeling alone and forgotten while encountering her own difficulties as she navigates high school. Siblings of children with disabilities and chronic illnesses is a heavily researched group, and Via very accurately brought this to life.
Perhaps my favorite line in Wonder is the precept introduced by Auggie’s teacher, Mr Browne, on the first day of school:
”When given the choice between being right, or being kind, choose kind.”
I feel like this should become an anthem in all of our homes and in the hearts of our children. In a world full of hurtful actions, let’s raise our children to be the ones who choose kindness.
With the PG rating this movie received, I highly anticipated that it would be a “children’s movie.” While somewhat geared towards children, parents will feel no sacrifice in watching the movie with their kids. You will love it. In fact, the story line and complex dynamics of the social, emotional relationships and character development will keep everyone entertained. It’s far more engaging than I anticipated.
I know many parents are wondering what age is appropriate to bring children to this film. I think Wonder is perfect for children ages 7 and up. While I think children younger than that may still enjoy the film, the common theme of Auggie encountering bullying and ridicule from cruel kids at school may not be fully understood by younger audiences.
There is some school violence in the Wonder movie. At one point, Auggie’s friend Jack stands up for Auggie by getting into a fist fight with the school bully. At another point, Auggie and his band of friends are cornered in the forest at camp and a fight ensues. Additionally, the topic of death comes up at a few different points in the film; Auggie’s grandmother dies, the family dog dies, and Auggie is repeatedly told by other children that “if I looked like you I’d kill myself.” These themes take a certain level of emotional maturity to fully comprehend.
All book lovers have one question to ask when it comes to book to movie adaptations. So, if you and your children have already read and loved Wonder, I know you are asking this in your mind right now. Overall I would say the Wonder movie does a great job of capturing the spirit of the book.
As always, they left out some scenes due to time constraints or to simplify the story to flow well in the movie format. You don’t get the same level of insight into the inner thoughts of all the characters, but they do take the time to show the backstories and point of view of most of the main characters, which helps to preserve the rich complexity of the story.
All in all, Wonder hit it out of the park. 5 stars from the KidNurse.
Choose kind, and please go enjoy this delightful film and its amazing message of friendship, courage, kindness, perseverance, and the bravery to stand out with your family.
Share your Wonder movie review or book review below. I’d love to hear your thoughts about this story.
Author: Dani Stringer, MSN, CPNP, PMHS – founder of KidNurse and MomNurse Academy