Sentimental Drama “Wonder” Unexpectedly Works

A wholesome and uplifting tale of empathy and inclusion, Stephen Chbosky’s Wonder (B+) traces the impact a middle schooler with disfiguring Treacher Collins syndrome has on his family and classmates. The story isn’t especially revolutionary – it’s full of familiar tropes with friends and bullies and overcoming obstacles – but it’s the heartfelt grace and gravitas that Chbosky and his game cast bring to the enterprise that provide the film such incredible lift. Jacob Tremblay anchors the story and provides a lived-in realism piercing through the prosthetics. Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson are bright spots as his encouraging parents. The supporting cast also includes Mandy Patinkin and Daveed Diggs as role model educators. Izabela Vidovic is particularly poignant as the family’s “other sibling” facing her own outsider status as she embarks on college life. Other child actors are uniformly effective. The filmmakers play a game of emotional Rashomon by depicting a particular series of sequences from multiple character POVs, and this is a nice touch to show what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. In light of many cruel events out of today’s headlines, the film delivers sterling instruction of individuals and families and communities to do better. It joins Rudy and Lucas as a triumph of this genre. Pack handkerchiefs for the viewing.

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