Saturday, August 11 – Movie Night – “Wonder”

Told from several different perspectives, Wonder is broadly about human connection and the idea that everyone is extraordinary in their own way. As a result, the new adaptation (and to a lesser extent the novel) speaks less to people living with disfigurement and more directly to those affected by its aftermath—the family and friends of individuals with craniofacial conditions—and to the general public. Wonder is, to be sure, a well-crafted, well-intentioned movie. But it also downplays some important economic, emotional, medical, and psychological realities of living with a facial difference. In neglecting key opportunities to build on its source material, Wonder missed a chance to better represent the experiences of children like Auggie who are already so widely misunderstood.

Since its premiere last month, Wonder has been touted as a “feel-good,” family-friendly movie for the holiday season. The film is based on the 2012 bestselling novel by R.J. Palacio and follows a boy who was born with a craniofacial condition known as Treacher Collins syndrome, which causes disfigurement. Ten-year-old Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay) has had to undergo nearly 30 surgeries, and his mother (Julia Roberts) gave up working on her Ph.D. to care for him. Wonder begins with Auggie facing a new sort of challenge: entering fifth grade at a mainstream prep academy after being homeschooled his whole life.

Wonder, both the book and the film, has received praise for being a nuancedtear-jerker about a difficult subject. The story’s emphasis on the value of empathy has resonated with many educators, parents, and children, while the struggles of its main character have spurred a greater awareness of craniofacial conditions, which affect the formation of the skull and face. After the novel was published, the Children’s Craniofacial Association ordered thousands of special-edition copies with its own logo to use as teaching tools. Wonder is, in short, one of the most popular modern stories about what it’s like to live with a facial difference. And yet, in many ways, it isn’t really about disfigurement, or even primarily about Auggie himself.

 

 

NEXT MONTH:  August 11