Movie: Wonder

Dad thought I’d probably enjoy this. Then he thought again.  As someone with a cleft lip and palate, I’ve had my own share of stares and cruelties as a child.  I’ve also felt the pain of being the parent of an affected child.  Perhaps it might be too close to the bone? he wondered.

He need not have feared.  I was not uplifted.  I was not cast down. My main response to this movie was nausea at its unrelenting saccharine-ness.

The little boy who starred in the movie does not have Treacher-Collins syndrome. His appearance was created through prosthetics and makeup. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I acknowledge that it would be an exceptional child who could both act and live a life of being stared at and shunned.  I don’t know if anyone would want to play in a kid’s head that way.

On the other hand, there’s something inauthentic about a movie with the message of “you are beautiful no matter what” and “be kind” choosing a non-affected child to pretend to have Treacher-Collins.  Something a little too easy about being able to wipe off the prosthetic and then go on to the next movie.  I’m uneasy about it.

5 responses to “Movie: Wonder

  1. American and saccharine seem to go together. They don’t get subtlety. There have been better movies, including one years ago with David Wenham and a lady with ms (in my hazy recollection). My son, nearly 40 now, was born with cleft lip and palate. When he was little, after his lip repair but while his palate was still open, a visitor saw a bit of string in his mouth and tugged. Out came his plate, the visitor nearly died of fright.

  2. Yes, well, this is a movie I was never going to see anyway.
    But gosh, is it the movie or America that can’t get it right? Whatever happened in the long ago, no child today with a visible disability like this would walk into an Australian school on his own with every kid unprepared and turning around to stare in a hurtful way. In every school I’ve ever worked at, staff were briefed beforehand, and then we briefed the other kids beforehand, explaining what’s wrong/different, showing a photo of the kid, and introducing him to the class as a *person* so that before they ever set eyes on him they know his favourite games, his footy team, the food he likes and dislikes, so that when he comes into class – not on his own without his mum or dad, for heavens sake! – they are not shocked or curious any more, and they just want to get to know him like any other new kid. And then a class game has been carefully chosen – one that shows he can play like any other kid and the ice gets broken. A little team of peer protectors is chosen to make sure that there’s no bullying or unwanted curiosity out in the yard, and it’s their job to summon the yard duty teacher if anything untoward happens. Because yes, kids can be cruel, but it’s a school’s not-negotiable job to prevent that.
    People in the community – and Bill’s visitor – don’t always get it right, and I know that in the past things were not handled so carefully but schools today are better than the trailer of this movie suggests.

    • Well, they did get a team of peer protectors, but one of them was the arch-bully, so they stuffed that up. And what annoyed me was that the kid was home schooled until Grade 5, which meant that he was entering school at an age when kids are hyper-critical of difference. He should have been at play group and kinder right from the start. Not enough for the parents to stand there praying “God, please let them be kind”.

  3. Thanks for this review, and what a helpful explanation Lisa, thanks. I’ve not seen the movie either but I’ve seen the trailer and thought that the school’s approach seemed improbable. Glad to know I was right.

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