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Film Depicts Our Need to Be Seen

In the film Wonder, which is based on the novel with the same name, a 10-year-old boy named Auggie was born with a rare medical facial deformity. Auggie has been home-schooled his whole life. But in fifth grade, his parents make the decision to send Auggie to school. The film chronicles Auggie’s experience of acclimating to his new social environment, getting bullied for the way he looks, and slowly making friends.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, including the story of Auggie’s older sister, Via. Via loves Auggie and watches out for him, but she often feels unseen by her family because of how much attention Auggie requires. And so she adjusts her life around this reality. Via fades to the background and keeps the details of her life hidden from her parents. There’s this poignant moment when Via expresses how much she longs for her mother to cast her gaze fully on her.

And then there’s this scene, where Via is serving as a stagehand as well as the understudy for the lead role in the high school’s production of Our Town. Her parents are in the audience because Via’s best friend has the lead role. But then her friend, who sees an opportunity, pretends to be sick right before the curtain goes up, which thrusts Via onto the stage, while her parents sit in the audience watching her amazing performance.

After the play is over, her family comes backstage, overwhelmed by her performance. And then there’s this moment, where Via looks up, and everything else fades to the background, and her mom is staring her right in the eye, with this look of incredible love and pride. And she simply points at her. In that moment, it’s as if Via is receiving the fulfillment of a fundamental human desire: to be seen, to be known, and to be loved.

The scene can be found here.

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