I had a whole other blog post planned for today. I’m halfway through writing it and planned to finish it off after getting back from the cinema. It will have to wait because, right now, I am totally incapable of thinking about anything else other than this film.
Warning: minor spoilers
I’ll be honest, when I heard that they were adapting Wonder for the big screen, I wasn’t thrilled. For several reasons, I thought that this was a book that should have been left alone. It is one of my favourite books and I was worried that they wouldn’t do it justice. First impressions weren’t good either. I saw images online of Auggie that were totally different from what I had imagined. Discussing this with a friend, she agreed that the power of Wonder was not actually knowing for sure what he looked like. That’s the point: it doesn’t matter because we should look beyond physical appearances. For these reasons, I didn’t rush to the cinema when it was first released. However, I heard positive reviews so I thought that I should give it a chance. I’m so glad that I did.
Simply put, this film is perfection. In my opinion, it’s a masterpiece. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Everyone should see it. In fact, if there’s still time in your area, get your whole school to the cinema to watch it. Author R. J. Palacio famously stated that teaching empathy is difficult. Instead, we must inspire it. This film, just like the book, certainly inspires it.
I’ve read the book so I expected the film to have a similar emotional punch. However, I wasn’t expecting a two-hour emotional beating! I was holding back tears for the entirety of its runtime (often unsuccessfully). I felt physically drained by the end of it. It is by far the most emotional experience that I have ever had while watching a movie. There are high moments and low moments, and every one of them tugged at my heartstrings. This is one of my favourite films ever!
Everything that I loved about the book is captured perfectly. In particular, seeing the story from different viewpoints and learning how Auggie’s physical appearance affects everyone around him. This is a phenomenal story for exploring perspective with students. For me, Via’s story is equally powerful. She’s the older sister who has accepted that the family members are “planets orbitting the sun… not the daughter”.
I love how there’s a great kid beneath the facial disfigurement. Auggie is like any other young boy. He likes Star Wars, Minecraft and burping. He’s hilarious! I want to be Auggie’s friend! Wonder teaches kids (and adults) to judge people based on their actions and their attitudes, not by the way they look. The character of Jack WIll demonstrates this perfectly, as he’s torn between Auggie and the bullying crowd, led by Julian. To the audience, the choice is an easy one. I hope that children watching it will connect this to their own peers and offer their friendship to those who deserve it.
The main bully of the story, Julian, is extremely unpleasant to Auggie. He’s the textbook definition of a bully. Children watching this will develop a deeper understanding of how their words and actions can affect others and how they can leave emotional scars. His concluding scene with Mr. Tushman (the Principal) and his parents was thought-provoking for me. As a teacher, it reminded me that kids aren’t bad to the core, even the ones who have been truly nasty and hurtful. Julian is clearly just a product of his environment who lacks positive role models at home. I loved how he showed remorse in that scene and, importantly, the Principal acknowledged this. Julian was later shown cheering for Auggie. All kids deserve another chance and the opportunity to learn from their behavioural mistakes. Who are the ‘Julians’ in your school?
Every student should watch this film. Every teacher should. In fact, everybody should. It’s that good! Moreover, it’s that important! Wonder reminds us that small, seemingly insignificant comments can cause huge upset. It explores how even our wordless actions, such as looking away or staring, can deeply impact someone with physical insecurities. This film encourages everyone to be kinder, more respectful, and more empathetic. Most of all, Wonder reminds us all that everyone, not just Auggie, is battling their own demons and that we should therefore always, always, always #ChooseKind. In conclusion, I’m absolutely thrilled that this has been made into a movie because it allows these important messages to reach more and more kids.
“If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.”
Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
Have you seen Wonder yet? What did you think? More to the point, how long did your dry eyes last? Please leave your comments below. What can students learn from it and how else can we inspire empathy and kindness?
If you are enjoying this blog, you can still vote for me in the education category of the UK Blog Awards 2018. Click here to vote for Mr. Hill’s Musings. Thank you!
To receive blog updates, find the ‘Follow’ icon (below or in the sidebar) or ‘Like’ my Facebook page. Your ongoing support and encouragement are very much appreciated.