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Wunder (Wonder)
U.S.A./Hong Kong 2017

Opening 25 Jan 2018

Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Writing credits: Stephen Chbosky, Steve Conrad, Jack Thorne, R.J. Palacio
Principal actors: Jacob Tremblay, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Julia Roberts, Mark Dozlaw

Steven Chbosky (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) directs R.J. Palacio’s same-titled 2012 children's book about overcoming a disability, inspired by a personal incident and Wonder, Natalie Merchant’s song. Following his trademark epistolary storytelling style, Chbosky lets Auggie tell his story; main characters provide their perspective for the bigger picture: best friend and older sister Via, Jack (Noah Jupe), Auggie’s new friend, and Via’s best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell). Chbosky and co-writers Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne’s screenplay respects the book’s integrity.

Auggie (Tremblay) might like ordinary things, but knows he is not an ordinary kid. Nor his family: Mom (Roberts), Dad (Wilson), 5-years-older Olivia (Vidovic) and Daisy the dog. Their love is honest, fierce, and enduring: at the center of their tight universe is Auggie. Although born with facial malformations—Treacher Collins syndrome—Auggie is bright and plucky, aiming for the moon. Scary though, is being enrolled at the mainstream Beecher Prep school this year. Fifth-grade. Home-schooled to date, Isabel’s resolve offsets Nate’s hesitation. Mr. Tushman (Mandy Patinkin), Beecher’s director, is kindly, encouraging and welcoming to Auggie. But people, especially children’s depth for cruelty is tough and Auggie strains to cope with the open staring, whispers and giggling, and bullying. As the year progresses, we learn others are also struggling with new challenges to conquer, or be conquered by.

Winsome depictions from the strong cast, particularly Tremblay, Roberts and Wilson, deliver likeable characters. Astutely editing, Mark Livolsi packs a lot in. Meriting recognition for their impeccable work is cinematographer Don Burgess, Marcelo Zarvos’ music, and Arjen Tuiten, special makeup designer: Auggie Pullman. There are so many levels for every age to learn from, importantly that of (not) fitting in: “You can’t blend in when you’re meant to stand out.” Because remember, “no one’s ordinary” just as a standing ovation is worth its weight in gold. Sentimental yet not soppy, Wonder is frank, witty, and heartwarming: Seeing is believing, but you have to be looking. (Marinell Haegelin)

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