A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
No matter what differences may exist, when you have a common goal and work as a team, great things can be accomplished. Themes include courage and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
All of the astronauts and cosmonauts interviewed demonstrate bravery, perseverance, and a joy in working (and living!) together for months to a year away from friends and family for the betterment of humanity.
Alternates between stories of men and women astronauts who've lived aboard the space station. Japanese astronaut Scott Wakata is among those featured (the first Black astronaut to live on the space station arrived just 10 months before the film's release). Promotes embracing cultural differences; astronauts and cosmonauts may come from countries that are sometimes considered enemies, but as individuals on a mission, they're friends and enthusiastic co-workers. Cady Coleman's storyline focuses a great deal on the impact of her being a mom in space; several of the men's storylines also incorporate their role as dads trying to retain family relationships while separated from kid(s) for months. No representation from LGBTQ+ or disabled communities, both of which aren't well represented in space-travel world in general.
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Violence & Scariness
Segment focuses on how 9/11 was experienced by an American astronaut witnessing it from the space station; brief news footage of the real-life peril and horror people experienced, although nothing graphic is shown. Discussion about the explosion of the Columbia, without definitive language or images.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Affection between married couples as they depart/arrive home from their mission.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Wonderful: Stories from the Space Station is a documentary about more than two decades of peaceful collaboration between nations, including those often at odds politically, on a project that's intended to benefit humanity as a whole. The history of the International Space Station is told mostly from the perspective of the astronauts and cosmonauts who've lived aboard it, as well as a few key people who helped make their experience a reality. An equal number of men and women share their personal journeys, but while many cultures are represented, the group is fairly homogenous in terms of race, ability, and sexual identity. The filmmakers are clearly making an effort to help kids connect to the experience of what it takes to get to space and what it's like to live there. Space station residents usually start out by talking about the interest in and awe of space that they felt as children, and several of the stories address what it's like for a parent to fly off in a rocket, leaving loved ones behind for six months to a year. Space camp types will probably be fascinated, but this effort is less likely to engage those who mostly tend to notice the sky when the moon is full. News footage of New Yorkers in peril during 9/11 may be upsetting. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Like Buzz Aldrin hopping across the moon in zero gravity, director Clare Lewins floats through the space station's history, landing on happy memories and gently leaping over the trickier subjects. This makes it a very different space documentary than many viewers may have seen before, about the mystery and danger of the moon and Mars, aliens and Apollo. Decidedly an expression of joy, The Wonderful features astronauts and cosmonauts avoiding edge-of-the-seat details in favor of a friendly take on what it's like to live in outer space. So when Sergey Volkov, the son of a well-known cosmonaut, talks about how shocked his parents were to learn that he'd applied to be part of Russia's space program because he'd grown up with an inside view, it makes you wonder what he's not telling us. Unavoidable subjects, like 9/11 and the space shuttle Columbia disaster, are covered, with revelations many of us have likely never thought about, but the film orbits around any deep expressions of pain. That lack of sensationalism helps make the movie more appropriate for a wider, younger audience, but, if we're being honest, it also makes it drag.
This is a chat, with astronauts telling their personal yarns. And while there's certainly magnificent footage of Earth from up above, there may not be enough to keep some kids engaged. Lewins tries to solve that problem, lobbing hooks to kids so that they can connect with the material. Astronauts talk about their own childhood dreams that led to them living among the stars, and Jamey Coleman shares what it was like at age 9 to watch his mom, Cady Coleman, get in a rocket and leave the planet for half a year. And flight engineer Samantha Cristoforetti, who lived on the space station from 2014 to 2015, helps viewers to see the wonder in The Wonderful: Despite her deep scientific knowledge, the Italian astronaut is still in awe of all she sees in the universe, expressing that feeling in poetic terms. Still, the kid-focused nuggets are a little bit too few and far between. But the docu's ultimate purpose, which it executes on very well, is to prove that we can all get along and accomplish greatness together. This informative film offers an excellent example of perpetual, peaceful teamwork, and that's great for kids to witness and absorb. Just be ready for that warm coziness to translate into drowsiness.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.