KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The highly anticipated family movie "Wonder" is now in theaters. It shares a universal message of kindness and acceptance, no matter what you look like.
Most parents can pull similarities from the heart-wrenching moments when the main character, Auggie Pullman, feels left out and made fun of. But for one local family, the similarities were uncanny.
"When you start your journey with a child with chronic illness, you always wonder if they're going to have friends, where they're going to end up, and so it's really nice that we are now just celebrating it," said Jen Bertrand.
She and her son Winston saw an early screening of "Wonder" this week.
"At first I thought I was going to be really sad during the whole movie, but it was awesome. I laughed because I felt like I'm watching our own story on the big screen; I'm a little less Julia Roberts," said Bertrand.
Winston was born with lymphatic and venous malformations, and just like Auggie, he's already had several surgeries to help him survive.
Earlier this month, Winston hit the red carpet for the premiere of a documentary he stars in about facial anomalies that reminds everyone they are just like you. Right now you can book a group to see both the documentary and the new film at AMC theaters - just click here for more information.
"In our society nowadays, unfortunately, the way you look affects the way people treat you," said Bertrand. "So it's very important for everyone to read the book, or see the movie, or watch the 'Just Like You' films because it reminds you not to judge a book by its cover.”
Growing up, Winston has faced a few tough encounters like Auggie faces in the movie.
"I was in kindergarten. She was kind of like a bully. She called me dumb face," said Winston. "But we're still friends today."
Bertrand said she was a little nervous about how Winston would react to some parts of the movie.
"I constantly looked at Winston and asked him if he was doing OK,” Bertrand said. "Then the most beautiful thing happened when I asked if he ever feels like Auggie because he's had those situations... And he said no, I've always had friends. I was like score! As a parent, we did our job that he doesn't own it as part of who he is… However, he recognizes the bullying and that's a problem."
Winston said if he encounters bullies he would stand up to them just like Auggie.
"We should choose kind," Winston said. "You don't make fun of their names or laugh at them or point or stare."
But Winston said it wasn't just the kids who had something to gain from the movie.
"Grownups have a lesson too,” he said.
"We've become so PC in the world that we don't know what to do; we feel uncomfortable when we see someone different," said Bertrand. "I teach adults instead of avoiding eye contact or being awkward, smile. That's all you have to do is smile, and that will make that person's day. Then they feel like they're not abnormal."
A smile can go a long way, and so can a simple conversation.
“If you see someone who has scars or injuries, you're seeing someone who has a story to tell, and who is strong, who has fought and survived," said Bertrand. "So instead of being freaked out by it, ask the story. They're usually open to tell it. Make a friend and say hello. You'll come out a different person."