By Yaacov Siev
As I sat down on the plane back to NYC and looked at the 3-hour flight ahead of me, I decided to flip through the movie selection offered on the entertainment system. Cycling through the choices, I discovered among them the movie Wonder. I had heard rave reviews about it and had decided months ago to watch it “when I had the time.” Equipped with the perfect amount of time and a pair of good headphones, I settled in for the film. What ensued were two of the most emotionally charged hours I have ever experienced. I can say without a doubt that this is the most beautiful movie I’ve seen to date. I sometimes like to think of myself as a “manly man.” I lift weights every day while listening to heavy metal, I enjoy trips to the gun range, and there’s nothing better than a plaid shirt with a crisp pair of jeans. Despite this, I can say free of all shame that I have never cried as much while watching a film as I have while watching Wonder. My sweater was repurposed as a handkerchief to wipe away the streams of tears that emanated from my eyes over and over again as this film played my heartstrings like an octopus playing a harp.
Wonder is filled with spectacular acting, phenomenal dialogue, a moving original soundtrack, and a smorgasbord of devastating and uplifting moments that’ll leave you needing a breather once the credits start rolling. The true power of this heart-wrenching film, however, lies within the touching messages it imparts upon the audience. The Mishnah in Sanhedrin famously says that “whoever saves one life is considered to have saved an entire world.” That’s because that is what each and every human life is: an entire world, with its own intricacies, complications, and challenges. Nothing shows that better than Wonder. Throughout the course of the film, each character’s life and perspective is visited, giving us a glimpse into the challenges each and every one of them face. Where things once seemed so simple, we suddenly are enlightened to an entire complex world beyond that which our limited scope allows us to see just from the outside. We see each person face the unique circumstances and challenges of their lives and try as best they can with what they’re given. It calls to our attention that despite how things may look on the surface, there is so much more that exists within each and every person as we try to navigate this tricky little thing called life.
The message, though, that Wonder imparts more deeply and poignantly than anything else is one that we constantly need to be reminded of: the power and immeasurable value of interpersonal relationships. Time and time again, Wonder shows how the most profound moments in our lives are those that we share with those we care about. We can experience the greatest of joys doing the most trivial of things when we are surrounded by those we love, as well as feel the deepest of sorrows when we feel the void where they once stood. Throughout the course of the film, some characters triumph over their challenges through their own inner strength while others do so by drawing strength and inspiration from the people around them. They make each other realize the potential they had all along, they lift each other up when they’re at their lowest, and they make the sweet times so much sweeter. Through their moments of courage and despair, the characters of Wonder show us that the most important aspect of life is really the ones you live it with. A Harvard study spanning the past 80 years found that “close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives.” It is the people in our lives that truly grant it the most substance, but that’s something that we unfortunately often forget. We spend our days looking for all sorts of external drawings and trappings, with our heads lifted to the stars with ambition, when in reality, the thing that will bring us the most satisfaction is the person standing right beside us. Our angels aren’t only in heaven, but rather, they walk among us here on Earth. Wonder calls that back into perspective and reminds us that our greatest treasures are the moments we share with the people we love.
To those who have not seen it yet, please, don’t let this gem of a movie pass you by. Don’t let it be one of the flicks that you’ll watch “when you have the time.” Make the time, watch this movie, appreciate the people in your life, hold your loved ones close, and remember that the greatest gift you could ever receive may just be the ones watching Wonder with you.