Esther McCarthy reviews Wonder and The Man Who Invented Christmas
Wonder (PG) ***
HE’S THE YOUNG actor whose startling debut in Irish director Lenny Abrahamson’s Room won him widespread praise.
Now Jacob Tremblay is getting us in the feels again, playing a young boy with a facial disfigurement in this drama based on the bestselling novel. It’s a movie that struggles with pacing but works hard to avoid being mawkish, and is geared towards a family audience.
The movie centres on the adventures of of New York youngster Auggie Pullman, who was born with a very rare condition that has left him with a facial deformity.
He is apprehensive at the prospect of going to school and mixing with other children, but Isabel is adamant that the time has come - and because it is a middle-school year, it will be a new experience for all of the children.
There are other challenges. Auggie must learn to have the courage and life skills to go outside without wearing his beloved astronaut helmet, which he has long used to protect himself from the stares of others. His condition has been difficult for the entire family, including his sister Olivia, who has growing pains of her own but has had to live in the shadow of her brother’s terrible condition.
Director Stephen Chbosky, who last brought us the charming and underseen The Perks of Being a Wallflower, largely avoids going into mawkish territory.
In the wrong hands, this could have been a weepie of the week but Tremblay and the rest of the cast tell the story in a sensitive manner that nevertheless doesn't avoid some tough truths. Roberts, in particular excels, parking the glam for the mam in a straight dramatic role.
The Man Who Invented Christmas (PG) ***
FILMED ON location in Ireland with Dublin standing in for London, this festive drama tells the story of how author Charles Dickens created his greatly loved seasonal novel.
Told with a lightness of touch and a lot of revisionism, this movie breathes fresh life into a story we know.
The movie opens with the successful author going through a period in the doldrums, with his book sales dwindling, him struggling with an attack of writer’s block and in need of a hit.
Meanwhile, his wife Catherine (Morfydd Clark) is pregnant with the couple’s fifth child, and a deadline from his book publishers looms.
There are tall tales aplenty in how the author came to be inspired, and the film doesn't concern itself with truth - this is a slice of family entertainment rather than a biopic. The great Christopher Plummer is having a blast playing Ebeneezer Scrooge in some of the film’s colourful scenes.