Inspirational movie ‘Wonder’ empowers the young against bullying

Based on the New York Times bestseller, “Wonder” tells the inspiring and heartwarming story of August Pullman. Born with facial differences that, up until now, have prevented him from going to a mainstream school, Auggie becomes the most unlikely of heroes when he enters the local fifth grade. As his family, his new classmates, and the larger community all struggle to find their compassion and acceptance, Auggie’s extraordinary journey will unite them all and prove you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out.

“Wonder” stars Academy Award® winner Julia Roberts, Academy Award® nominee Owen Wilson, Izabela Vidovic and Jacob Tremblay. Spread from hand to hand, family to family, the book sold more than 5 million copies, but its impact went deeper as it also sparked a grassroots “Choose Kind” movement and inspired readers to share their own stories. The book soon lured Hollywood attention as well.

Part of the Wonder phenomenon has been empowering young people to more confidently confront the poison of bullying, bigotry and ostracism. “The book has sparked international anti-bullying campaigns,” notes producer Lieberman. “One of the most important things is that the story explores the many different ways people get bullied. Emotional bullying is a big deal to me, and it’s one of the reasons I really responded to the book. Bad behavior has been going on forever, but with social media you now have people treating others unfairly on an even wider spectrum, so the need for these kinds of stories is more timely than ever.”

The book’s author R.J. Palacio, now speaks with kids around the country about bullying as part of the Choose Kind movement started in response to the book, and has had thousands sign her Choose Kind pledge. She says it helps to remind kids that the attitude they have now towards others will affect them their whole lives. But Palacio says that much as her book is anti-bullying that alone is not enough. She hopes the book and now the movie will inspire everyone to be proactive, to take the one extra step to give someone a boost or a helping hand. “Sometimes it doesn’t take much at all to make a huge impact,” she points out. “The best part about small acts is that you never know when you might actually be saving someone’s life.”

Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson stepped in to play two of Wonder’s most essential roles: Isabel and Nate, who as Auggie’s parents try to square their protective instincts with knowing their son must find his own place in the world, no matter how harsh. They explore something rarely seen in popular culture – what it’s like to be a parent of a child with differences, navigating anxieties and isolation as they try to bridge the gap between the child they know at home and the mystery the rest of the world sees at first glance.

Says Roberts of her initial reaction to the book: “I thought it had an incredible scope of characters and I loved the character’s different points of view, their compassion and their complexities. I read it with my kids, they all loved it and it was at that point that I thought, this has to be made into a movie.”

“Isabel is at an interesting crossroads,” Roberts observes. “I mean we all go through this incredible shift in our lives when you become a parent, when you become a steward to another human life who becomes your complete and total priority. So now, with Auggie finally going to school, it is very bittersweet for her. It’s the first time that they haven’t been together almost every minute of every day. But it does allow for her to slowly go back to the things she was doing before he was born. Now she has to learn to let go.”

A must-see film for all ages, “Wonder” opens nationwide in cinemas November 29, 2017 from Pioneer Films.

Andrew Garfield plays real-life polio-stricken adventurer in ‘Breathe’

Taking his hero role a notch higher, Andrew Garfield champions the severely disabled in his latest sweeping romantic film opposite Claire Foy in “Breathe” – the true story of a couple truly in love as they refuse to be imprisoned amidst a devastating disease, dazzling others with their humour, courage and lust for life. “Breathe” is a heart-warming and highly emotional celebration of bravery and human possibility, a love story about living every breath as though it’s your last.

“Breathe” producer Jonathan Cavendish had always believed that his father’s life story would be powerful material for a compelling film. Robin Cavendish (Garfield) had been a trailblazer, a remarkable, larger-than-life figure. He was diagnosed with polio in his late 20s and remained paralysed from the neck down. Totally reliant on a respirator that ‘breathed’ for him, he faced a life confined to a hospital bed. Yet he refused to accept that fate: with the help of his wife Diana (Foy), and their inventive and supportive friends, he found a way to live his life in the world, outside of hospital.

The couple’s wanderlust remains as strong as ever. In order for Robin to travel, an old Bedford van is adapted so his wheelchair can fit in the passenger seat. With a new zest for life, he admits he always wanted to see the sun rise over the Mediterranean. Diana organises the trip, including travelling with racehorses aboard a transport plane to carry the family and their van to Spain. Despite a nailbiting incident when the respirator burns out, it’s an idyllic experience for them all. Having already survived beyond the point his doctors expected, Robin wants to forge ahead and help other severely disabled people. He secures financing for more wheelchairs like his own to be built, and attends a conference in Germany where experts on severe disability are astonished by what he has already achieved.

Against all odds, Robin’s severe illness has given him a new purpose in life – fighting tirelessly for the rights of disabled people. Diana and Robin’s love for one another imbues their pioneering adventures with purpose, joy and laughter.

Andrew Garfield vividly recalls reading the script of Breathe for the first time: “I was on my travels, and I was told they needed an answer very soon. When I read it, I cried so much, I fell in love with it. I was so moved by the story. It felt like a road map of how to live, in terms of following the footsteps of Robin and Diana. ‘How do you live a life of joy with the hand that fate deals you?’ That’s what it felt like to me. I was deeply moved by it. It answers the question: ‘how do you live your life?’ And there’s this whole issue of choosing joy in your life above all other ways, no matter what. I found that very inspiring.”

There’s something humble about this story, which I like. There’s nothing grandiose about it, it’s just people getting on with their lives and living as fully as possible,” concludes Garfield.

“Breathe” opens November 22, 2017 in cinemas nationwide from Pioneer Films.