If only Jacob Tremblay could narrate every film!
Tremblay, who was inexplicably robbed of an Oscar nomination (I would perhaps even argue the win) for Room two years back, again proves himself one of our finest child actors with his latest effort, director Stephen Chbosky's film adaptation of Wonder.
Based on R.J. Palacio's beloved 2012 novel, Wonder tells the story of August "Auggie" Pullman (Tremblay), a young boy with Treacher Collins syndrome, the genetic disorder characterized by facial deformities. Having to date been homeschooled by his mom (Julia Roberts), Auggie, with some initial anxiety and reluctance, makes the leap into attending an elementary school for the first time.
Auggie encounters no shortage of ignorance and cruelty from some of his classmates - fueled, as we come to find, by some parents who deserve a special place in hell - but, over time, comes across the right friendly faces and teaches even some of the nastier forces that he's really just an ordinary (and awesome) kid.
Auggie's story alone is an absorbing one but Wonder is in fact a great ensemble piece, shining a spotlight on his adoring parents (Owen Wilson portrays the father); the older sister (Izabela Vidovic) who's been there every step of the way through her brother's journeys in and out of hospitals and herself is struggling socially in school; and Auggie's friend Jack Will (Noah Jupe), torn between the new pal he loves and peer pressure to poke fun at him. Even Auggie's sister's estranged friend has her own little sequence!
Wonder isn't quite as ambitious a picture as say, this year's Wonderstruck, but it's still awfully irresistible, with Tremblay charming, funny and also heartbreaking as can be in the lead role. Roberts and Wilson are in warm, wonderful form and Vidovic is an absolute revelation as Auggie's sister, who finds surprising fulfillment through her school's drama group. Watch out for a terrific turn by Mandy Patinkin too, who plays the school principal.
Chbosky's The Perks of a Wallflower left me rather cold a few years back, so, despite my affection for Tremblay, I did not have terribly high expectations for this. Well, those modest expectations were exceeded by leaps and bounds and I would encourage all to check out this marvelous (and surprisingly not manipulative/saccharine) film.