★★★★★

“I know I’m not an ordinary kid,” Auggie says in a voiceover during the film’s opening scene. “I mean, I’m doing the right things. I just don’t look ordinary when I’m doing these things.”

“Wonder” is the screen adaptation of author R.J. Palacio’s eponymous novel. Set to release in theaters Friday, the film tells the story of 10-year-old August “Auggie” Pullman, played by Jacob Tremblay, a boy born with craniofacial differences. After years of surgeries and homeschooling, Auggie is facing his newest challenge: beginning the fifth grade at a public school. The incredible performances by the actors combined with the sharp script and bright sets make “Wonder” worth a watch.

Although Auggie’s facial differences are his most immediately noticeable characteristic, he has a passion and talent for science, particularly astronomy. His bedroom ceiling is painted with stars, his room is filled with toy spaceships and solar systems, and he often wears an astronaut helmet when he leaves the house.

Auggie’s love and knowledge of science plays a critical role in the film, proving his intelligence but also revealing his desire to be elsewhere. For example, he excels at science in school and knows markedly more than the other students, but he typically does not have the self-confidence to explore the world without the helmet blocking his face from sight.

Auggie’s deep interest in science and fear of showing himself to the world introduce an contrast between Auggie’s abilities and his perceptions of himself, which incites audience reflection.

As Auggie begins the fifth grade, he confronts waves of new experiences and some, like bullying, knock him down. Auggie eats lunch alone most days and is terrorized by a classmate named Julian, played by Bryce Gheisar. However, he also grows close with classmate Jack Will, played by Noah Jupe, and begins seeing what there is to like about having a traditional school experience.

While Auggie transitions to school, we also see the ways in which Auggie’s sister Via, played by Izabela Vidovic, is overlooked by her parents because of their focus on Auggie. Via’s best friend Miranda, played by Danielle Rose Russell, is no longer speaking to her, but she chooses not to tell her parents this so as not to burden them.

“August is the sun,” Via says. “Me and Mom and Dad are planets orbiting the sun.”

These parallel storylines lead into the film’s division into four characters’ perspectives: Auggie’s, Jack’s, Via’s and Miranda’s. By honing in on the lives of four different characters, the audience gains a more holistic perspective on Auggie’s individual experiences and their effects on those around him.

The film’s split focus reminds viewers that he is normal and allows deeper understandings of his peers. Although Auggie is the center of the film, there are other stories that deserve telling.

One of the most heartwarming and central themes in “Wonder” is the Pullman family dynamic. Auggie’s relationships with his sister and his parents, while indicative of the differences present in a family with a child born with disabilities, are also a wonderful representation of how relatable the family members are. In one scene, after Auggie storms out of family dinner because he is upset about how he was treated during his first day of school, he is consoled about his day but also scolded for leaving the table without being excused.

The core of this film’s success lies in the talent of the actors. While the script and the sets are certainly excellent, the compelling emotional narrative and the investment that the audience feels in the story is the result of the performances. At the center of this is Tremblay. An immensely talented child actor, Tremblay first achieved critical acclaim for his work in 2015’s “Room” and now is an incredible joy portraying Auggie with a perfect blend of humor, self-consciousness and maturity.

Jupe gives another outstanding performance that is charming, thoughtful and rich with subtleties; he has the remarkable ability to display a range of emotions through his facial expressions and deliver every line with deliberation. The performances given by Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, playing Auggie’s parents, Isabel and Nate, respectively, also provide the film with a strong backbone. Their ceaseless support and understated humor is an endearing addition to the film.

A heartwarming, realistic depiction of a remarkable little boy’s fifth-grade experience, “Wonder” is a must-see for anyone who enjoys beautiful, relatable films with subject matter that is not typically covered. “Wonder” will likely make audiences reflect and inspire younger audience members to think about how they view one another.

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