It’s rare that a title encompasses just about every facet of a film, from its themes to its characters, and is not overly pretentious. In fact, it is rare that a movie has such a fitting title that any other would somehow lessen the impact of the work. One film that fits this particular rarity is Javier Molina and Gabriel Furman’s latest short, a movie that manages to make every aspect of its premise important to audiences of almost every age group. Biting, heartbreaking, and deeply fulfilling (all in impressively quick succession), Wonder is a steep tussle through who we are and how we define who we are within our surroundings and relationships.
Sammy (Benji Siegel) lives with his single blue-collar dad Frank (Furman), and Halloween is fast approaching. While his friends debate over whose costume will be the coolest, a passing drag queen (Jamyl Dobson) catches their eye. While his friends deride the individual with insults and slurs, Sammy takes note of their strange freedom and powerful individualism, even in the face of unjust ridicule, and finds an inherent attraction to it. After returning home, Sammy begins working on his own makeshift Halloween costume–a Wonder Woman costume. While thoroughly satisfied with his home-crafted getup, smiling widely as he postures in front of his bedroom mirror, the atmosphere drastically changes when Sammy’s dad comes home.
“While thoroughly satisfied with his home-crafted getup…the atmosphere drastically changes when Sammy’s dad comes home.”
Sammy is at the age where discovering who he is and how he fits into the world is almost a daily journey, with the many surrounding people and societal viewpoints constantly molding his inward and outward perceptions. While he has many similarities with his friends that hold them close, they ultimately disagree fundamentally on what exactly is natural, which further compounds Sammy’s confusion over how he feels. This throughline becomes more deeply ingrained through interactions with his father, providing the main conflict in the short, as well as the most satisfying characterization in the narrative.
I believed every actor on screen, which is incredibly difficult, especially when working with a largely child cast. The dialogue flows naturally, and with Elia Lyssy’s cinematography being so involved in the action and fluid amongst the characters, you can easily get lost in the performances–Siegel and Furman’s especially. The camerawork’s effectiveness is augmented by the precise and meaningful blocking, with scenes always constructed to evoke subtle power dynamics, the mental states of our cast, and the wonder of childhood, fatherhood, and life in general. Edited with an acute deliberateness by Marco Ferrara, the film maintains a precise rhythm, accentuated by an excellent sense of montage and scene segue.
Wonder is just that: a wonderful film–a concise and endearing story that easily snatched my heartstrings with its overall efficiency and passion.