Stephen Chbosky’s (‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower‘) ‘Wonder’ is a heartwarming family drama that tells the story of a 10-year-old boy with facial deformities named Auggie. Homeschooled all his life, Auggie is reluctant to start middle school because he’s worried that he will be an outcast and treated differently because of how he looks. The film takes the viewers through Auggie’s journey, where he feels equal parts despair and love. The director portrays the story from the perspective of different characters throughout the movie, giving the viewers a better idea of how these characters are motivated to behave the way they do.
Upon its release, ‘Wonder’ received universally positive reviews, with critics praising the story and the performances of the lead cast which include the talented Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson, amongst others. A poignant look at growing up, the film touches upon the very real problem of bullying, the idea of looking past someone’s appearance, and finally, acceptance. Curious if any of it is real? Possible spoilers ahead, but we’ve got you covered!
Is Wonder Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Wonder’ is not based on a true story. It is the official adaptation of the children’s novel of the same name by Raquel Jaramillo, who published it under the pseudonym of R. J. Palacio. Speaking with NPR, the author recounted what inspired her to write this book. While out at an ice cream store with her two sons, they came across a girl who had severe facial malformation. As her son began to cry upon looking at her, Jaramillo quickly left from there with her children. She said, “In order to spare this little girl’s feelings, I ended up just kind of running away from the scene.”
Once back home, Jaramillo couldn’t shake the feeling that she had handled the situation poorly. She kept thinking about what she could have done differently. She then wanted to write hoping to help people see the world from the perspective of someone with deformities. This is where the idea for ‘Wonder’ was born. In the movie, Auggie suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome, a genetic disease causing deformities to his facial features.
While most of the story is told through Auggie’s point of view, the parts of the film told through the other characters’ eyes particularly stand out. For instance, the story of Auggie’s sister Via helps drive home the fact that she has always held herself back to accommodate the needs of the brother she dearly loves. It brings forward the unintended effect it has on her life: the feeling of being left out and feeling like she isn’t being noticed.
In an interview, Chbosky admitted that he was nervous about undertaking another author’s work. He feared he “would let down a book” and also the kids that love the book. On the contrary, he did a splendid job of staying faithful to the source material. The book, and as an extension, the movie serve as a stark reminder of the struggles that children with deformities and disabilities and their families go through.
The plot is fictional, but it does not mean that there aren’t real-life similarities. After all, there are many who have had comparable experiences. Nathaniel Newman, the son of Magda and Russel Newman, was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome. The story of Auggie and his struggles are very similar to what Nathaniel had experienced. For someone who has been through more than 70 surgeries, all he has ever wanted is to live a normal life as a teenager. And Nathaniel isn’t alone in feeling that way.
There are over 600,000 children diagnosed with conditions similar to this in the United States. ‘Wonder’ has helped some of these children feel more confident about themselves. Ultimately, while the movie isn’t based on a true story, the lessons it hopes to teach and the issues that its characters face are still very relevant. The idea of being kind, understanding, and accepting will forever ring true.
Read More: Best Julia Roberts Movies