“You can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.”
What a frightening thing the first day of school can be—especially when you’ve been home schooled your whole life because you have a deformity that cannot be hidden. Wonder is a story of outcast and friendship. Though not exactly a tear-jerker, it does have a few weepy moments, not because of the characters’ pain, but because we see hearts open up so that they can see beyond the external appearance.
Auggie Pullman (Jacob Trembly) had a problem birth and several surgeries that have resulted in a face filled with scars and deformity. He prefers to wear an astronaut helmet when he is in public. Younger children cry and run when they see him. He has been sheltered at home by his mother (Julia Roberts), father (Owen Wilson), and older sister Via (Izabela Vidovic). But going into middle school seems the right time for him to start going to school with others. It not just that he knows no one, but because of how he looks, no one wants to be a friend. As the school year progresses, some discover things about Auggie and themselves that will bring them together.
While Auggie is the center of the story, we discover that various other characters have flaws that are less obvious than Auggie’s face. Yet those flaws are just as devastating to their search for acceptance and happiness. If those flaws become evident, those characters could become outcasts, just as Auggie is. On the other hand, if we can see beyond the faults we can discover gifts that others have to share.
Although the cruelty that children are capable of is a key part of the story, it certainly isn’t a character flaw that is limited to them. Everyone makes judgments about other people that build walls between us and them. Maybe it is about race, or social class, sexuality, religion, or looks. How do we choose who we will be friends with? Do we shy away from those who are in some way outwardly different?
One of Auggie’s teachers gave them monthly precepts—short sayings to build character. One of those precepts was said to be found in an ancient tomb: “Our deeds are our monuments.” That is an important idea to keep in mind as we watch the children—and some adults, make choices of how they will relate to Auggie.
I think it is also worth noting that Jesus was someone who not only welcomed, but sought out outcasts. One of the criticisms of his ministry was that he was “a friend of tax collectors and sinners”. Even some of those closest to him were “tainted”: fishermen, a tax collector, women of shady morals. To follow in his way is to be willing to welcome and befriend the outcasts among us.
Photos courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment