4/5 MUST must see SEE
dir Stephen Chbosky
prd David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman
scr Stephen Chbosky, Steven Conrad, Jack Thorne
with Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic, Mandy Patinkin, Noah Jupe, Daveed Diggs, Danielle Rose Russell, Nadji Jeter, Bryce Gheisar, Millie Davis, Sonia Braga
release US 17.Nov.17, UK 1.Dec.17
17/US Lionsgate 1h53
Have a nice day: Tremblay and Roberts

wilson patinkin jupe
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Wonder Bursting with raw emotion from the start, this is a rare heartfelt drama that manages to avoid sentimentality as it touches on a seriously important topic. Ostensibly aimed at school-aged children, its message is perhaps even more relevant for grown-ups, and it's stated overtly early on: When you need to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind.

After being homeschooled by his mother (Roberts), 10-year-old Auggie (Tremblay) is entering middle school. The whole family, including his dad (Wilson) and sister Via (Vidovic), is nervous about this, because Auggie was born with a facial deformity. But his new headmaster (Patinkin) is determined to make this work. Auggie soon makes a friend in Jack (Jupe), who stands up with him against the bullying Julian (Gheisar). Meanwhile, no one seems to be paying attention to Via's life, who has drifted from her best friend Miranda (Russell) and has a blossoming romance with Justin (Jeter).

Based on RJ Palacio's novel, this fiction feels like a true story because it is told journalistically from various perspectives. Obviously, the strongest point of view is Auggie's, but Via's offers potent insight into how challenges ripple through families. Jack's angle is also strongly telling, while Miranda's feels a little truncated on-screen. And through it all, Roberts and Wilson offer a remarkably textured portrayal of parents trying to conceal their deep-seated concerns about how society will treat their son.

Each performance is earthy and honest, and each actor gets to shine. Even with his prosthetic makeup, Tremblay (Room) delivers another terrific turn as a young boy grappling with the world around him, letting the audience feel his yearning to fit in, his steely determination and his boyish energy. Vidovic and Jupe are also excellent in roles that offer moving angles on the viewer's own responses to the story. As teachers, Patinkin and Diggs have strong moments of their own. And Roberts shines as a complex woman who is open to discovering things about herself.

Director-cowriter Chbosky cleverly maintains a careful grip on the film's emotional tone, peppering scenes with humour and a bit of tension. Feelings surge all the way through, from warm moments of understanding to harshly narrow-minded onslaughts. There's joy and heartbreak, and perhaps a couple of points that are pushed a little too far into sadness or cruelty. But this is a movie that should really be required viewing for all school children. And their parents. And everyone else, really.

cert pg themes, some violence 20.Nov.17

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Wonder Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.

© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall