Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of WONDER

Wonder, rated PG
***

Wonder is a heart-warming, family friendly film with good messages, based on the best-selling novel that features a strong cast. Stephen Chbosky, who directed the film version of his own novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, directs this version of R.J. Palacio’s 2012 young-adult best-selling novel, which may remind some of the 1985 Oscar winning film Mask, about a teenager with craniofacial deformities.  Chbosky writes the screenplay along with Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne. The story is told from the perspective of multiple characters.
The film is about one year in the life of ten-year old Auggie Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay, who was wonderful in the 2015 film Room. A congenital disorder (mandibulofacial dystosis, which is known as Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS),has badly deformed Auggie’s face.  (Note: it actually took 90 minutes each day during filming to apply the facial prosthetics he wore for the role.) The disfiguration was so severe, that even after 27 surgeries, Auggie’s face is still badly deformed to the point that when he ventures out of his home he wears a large astronaut helmet on his head to hide his face from others.
Auggie lives in New York with his overprotective parents, father Nate, played by Oscar nominee Owen Wilson (The Royal Tenenbaums), and mother Isabel, played by Oscar winner Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich), along with sister Via, short for Olivia (Izabela Vidovic), who is neglected by her parents as they focus all of their attention on Auggie. Auggie has been home-schooled by his mother, but as he is to enter the fifth grade, they decide to send him to Beecher Prep School, where Mr. Tushman (played by three-time Golden Globe nominee Mandy Patinkin) is the kind principal.
The film follows Auggie, who displays a good sense of humor, during his first year at Beech, where we see him bullied and teased, make friends, etc. But the film is also about Via and how she deals with being neglected by her parents.
The film is told from the perspectives of Auggie, Via, Via’s best friend Miranda (Danielle Rose Russell), and Auggie’s classmates Julia (Bryce Gheisar) and Jack (Noah Jupe).  Three-time Golden Globe nominee Sonia Braga portrays Grans, Via’s and Wonder’s grandmother, in a small role.
The film is well-acted, and Wilson and Roberts have good chemistry on-screen. I really enjoyed Mandy Patinkin’s portrayal of the wise and kind principal, Mr. Tushman. The top performance though has to be by 11-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who follows his excellent performance in Room with another strong performance asAuggie.
Themes include acceptance, bullying, friendship and family.  My wife loved the father’s strength that was portrayed.  Mom wants to protect Auggie and keep him in her ‘nest’, while Dad wisely boots the little ‘eaglet’ out of the nest to teach him to fly.  The film is truly family friendly, with no objectionable content, which is really refreshing these days. And oh yes, you might want to bring a Kleenex with you to the theatre for this heart-warming film.


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Movie Review ~ Room

RoomRoom, rated R
****

This film is based on Emma Donoghue’s 2010 book Room: A Novel, which according to the author is not based on any specific real-life case. Donoghue also wrote the screenplay. In many ways, this is a story of a mother “Ma” (or Joy), played by Brie Larson, and her five year old son Jack, played by Jacob Tremblay.

The film is directed by Lenny Abrahamson and has been nominated for four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Writing and Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published), Larson has already won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. This is one of the better films we have seen recently, right up there with The Big Short, Spotlight and The Martian.

Room is the story of “Ma” who was kidnapped at age 17 by “Old Nick” (which throughout history has at times been a name used for the devil), played by Sean Bridgers. Since then, she has been imprisoned in a small (about 11’ x 11’) shed on “Old Nick’s” property in suburban Ohio for seven years. Ma gave birth to Jack during this period and has tried to escape at least once. The film is seen primarily through Jack’s eyes.

As the film begins, Jack is celebrating his fifth birthday. In those five years, he has never been outside of “Room”. His only outside connection is with an old television set that gets poor reception and a small skylight. In Room we also see a few tables, a bathtub, bed, toilet, pictures and books. Ma has taught him how to read and about a world she wants him to know, not all of which is true. Ma still breastfeeds Jack. To Jack, Room is reality and TV is make believe. Despite their terrible circumstances, he seems genuinely happy (he knows no other life), and has a very close relationship with his mother.

“Old Nick” comes by in the evenings to bring them groceries and to rape Ma, while Jack hides in the closet, pretending to be asleep. We don’t see the rapes, and only slightly hear the bed creaking.

Jack has never seen “Old Nick”, but one night he comes out and looks at him sleeping in the bed with Ma. When “Old Nick” wakes up and wants to touch Jack, Ma starts screaming and lashing out at “Old Nick”, who then grabs her by the throat, badly bruising it. To punish her, he turns off the power to the shed, to the point that Jack can see his breath in the air.

Seeing that “Old Nick” is getting increasingly dangerous, Ma begins to think of how she can get Jack out of Room. She also begins to tell Jack more about the real world that he doesn’t know even exists. Jack struggles to understand and believe that there is a world outside of Room.

To tell you any more about the plot would ruin it for you. Suffice to say, Larson, and even more so the now 9 year old Tremblay, deliver incredible performances     here. I felt that this was an incredibly powerful film experience.

The film is rated “R” for adult language and themes included such as sexual slavery, depression, suicide and physical and psychological struggles. It includes abuses of God’s and Jesus’ names. Despite the themes included in the film, it is a touching story of a mother and her young son. Still, it is a film best suited for mature teens and adults.