Little Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) was born with a congenital condition that, even after twenty-seven operations, has left him with a sadly messed-up face. Lucky for him, he lives in a luxurious New York brownstone with parents Nate and Isabel (Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts), who are the nicest people in the world. It’s easy to be flippant if you have not been cursed by disfigurement (‘winning the lottery of life in reverse’), so I would not wish to pretend for one minute that I was not deeply affected in a choked-up, heart-swelling way by this movie. Writer/director Stephen Chbosky also gave us The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012), so I should have known to expect something more perceptive, more generous in its humanity than what is par for the course in a mainstream tearjerker. Crunch time comes for Auggie when he is enrolled to start middle-school after being taught at home for years by his mum. Not surprisingly, the rest of the kids treat him as a freak and the film is primarily concerned with how Auggie deals with it – being accepted for who we are, regardless of what we look like, is a theme that anyone can relate to (is ostracism of the ‘other’ worse now, in an age obsessed with image? Or was it ever thus?). And there is more to it than just that, as Chbosky gives equal time to those in Auggie’s orbit who are also affected by the problem he must overcome. The story concerning his sister Olivia (Izabela Vidovic), often overlooked because of her brother’s special needs, is in every way as endearing. The casting is perfect, right down to Daisy the dog, the sentiment rightful and unabashed, the romance between Via and Justin (Nadji Jeter) as sweet as a peach and the climax awesomely lachrymose. Having been worn down by its countless previews, I went along ready to mock and scoff, but in the end I was completely won over. ‘We all deserve a standing ovation, at least once in our lives.’ Go see it.
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