Enlarging our Hearts at the Cinema with Paddington2 and Wonder
The Salisbury Odeon is one of the oldest buildings in town with an impressive mediaeval hall which leads into four or perhaps five screens. Friends will know that it is a favourite haunt of mine – sometimes just a very helpful release from work – at other times important for us all to see beyond the horizon and have our hearts and imaginations enlarged.
Here is a small reflection on a couple of recent visits.
I did not get round to seeing the first Paddington but this sequel offers us a reminder that our lives are always better if we nurture the virtues of decency, good manners and the generosity of spirit. We follow Paddington as he sets out to earn money to buy handmade pop-up book for his aunt Lucy’s birthday. Enter a showboating actor in the shape of Hugh Grant who snatches away the book. Paddington battles on with endearing goodness.
It is funny and warming. Do not resist this. It was for every age in screen three a reminder of what life can be like if we see the best – really the best in everyone!
Hollywood has always been in the business of finding a million ways to teach us lessons. We need that – and especially in these rather dark and confusing times. In wonder the main character is Auggie played with consummate skill by Jacob Tremblay. He is a 10-year-old New York boy who was born with a rare genetic condition which makes him look different. Until the point when the film begins he has been entirely home schooled by his parents – played by Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts – and he takes refuge from staring eyes by wearing an astronaut’s helmet.
We follow him into school on his first day and feel with him as his fellow classmates stare and recoil. The story is as much about their collective growth and learning to look beneath the surface as it is about Auggies maturing encourage to face the world.
There is a clever use of multiple narrators that include Auggies older sister, a fellow classmate Jack will to try is the hardest to befriend Auggie.
Be warned : this will hug on your heartstrings – there is a reality and a harshness around some very raw emotions which are played out so imaginatively. Vulnerability, anxiety, pain and tears shape the unfolding of the story. I think it’s an extraordinary way in understanding impairment and through this asks that we drop our guard.
Despite our awareness perhaps that this story will move to the happiest of endings – I reckon you need a handkerchief close to hand.
There are some wonderful lines – Mr Browne, the teacher of Auggie’s class, tells them, “Given the choice between being right and being kind, be kind”.
And there is some advice – from headmaster Mr Tushman “Auggie can’t change the way he looks. Maybe we can change the way we see.”