Based on the runaway best-selling book by R.J. Palacio, Wonder takes us into the life and times of August Pullman, a ten-year-old boy born with the kind of severe facial deformities that cause most everyone he meets to respond to him in ways that are very painful. The movie follows Auggie as he makes his grand entry into the public life of a fifth-grader after previously being home-schooled. Anyone who has ever been the new kid at school will be able to relate to Auggie's experiences with bullies and the extreme distress of not fitting in.
The movie's storyline is revealed to us as the main characters take turns presenting their perspectives. I don't always like this cinematic or literary technique, but it works well in this movie. It is a very effective way of telling the stories within the story and it helped me form bonds with each character. Getting to briefly run around inside the heads of the supporting characters fleshed out the movie's themes and made them multi-dimensional.
We are introduced to Wonder's guiding principles through the precepts of Auggie's English teacher, Mr. Browne. Choosing kindness, a major theme, is unveiled early in Mr. Browne's classroom via this quotation by Dr. Wayne Dyer:
"When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind."The mark of an exceptional movie, at least for me, is what happens when I step out of the theater after the closing credits. Last night, upon arriving home, I found myself spending hours online learning more about Treacher Collins Syndrome (Auggie's condition), the Choose Kind movement inspired by Wonder, watching video interviews with families affected by this syndrome, and reading up on how R.J. Palacio came to write Wonder.
This movie is one that will impact me for a very long time. As a former teen who was bullied for merely being the new kid at my middle school, I have never forgotten the misery and deep pain caused by that experience. It shaped who I became as a teacher and continues to remind me that we each have an awesome responsibility to nurture kindness in young people. If I leave no other legacy as a teacher and human being than that of planting seeds of kindness and compassion, I will feel as though I did something meaningful with my life.
I encourage you to take a child or grandchild to see Wonder. My gifts to young people this Christmas will include the book Wonder, along with related journals and t-shirts that promote the Choose Kind message. It is just one of the many ways I intend to celebrate the hope and wonder of the season.
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