As I sat in the darkened theater, preparing to watch The Impossible, I suddenly realized that I was very likely making a terrible mistake. This was going to be a movie about a mother and father and their three boys going through awful, heartbreaking tragedy.
Father of six that I am, with a dad’s easily stabbed heart, I wondered if I was going to make it through.
I did. So will you. This is an extraordinary film, made more so by remarkable performances and the fact that it’s true.
Here’s a trailer (warning, the music the trailer is set to is a very simple and lovely cover of U2′s “One” and you will likely weep slightly):
Released sometime in late 2012
Written by Sergio G. Sanchez, based on the story by Maria Belon
Directed by Juan Antonia Bayona
Starring Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, and Oaklee Pendergast
* * * * *
Maria (Watts) and Henry (McGregor) are vacationing with their three young boys in Thailand, right near the beach. They’re from London and their boys are impossibly pure-looking. The oldest is Lucas (Holland), a grumpy and boundaries-testing early teen or pre-teen. The next is Thomas (Joslin– and my oldest is named Thomas– so resonance), a sweet but easily unnerved young boy. The youngest can’t be older than 4 or 5, and he is Simon (Pendergast) and is a frank and good lad.
The family is on vacation for Christmas. The day after Christmas, as the family frolics in the hotel’s pool, the horrific tidal wave strikes. When it does, Henry is gripping Thomas and Simon, while Maria is pressed against a wall and Lucas is standing on his own.
Maria surfaces first, clinging desperately to life in the torrent and soon finding Lucas. We discover with Lucas that Maria is sorely injured, and Lucas must step up to keep her alive. His young boy innocence completely shattered, he can’t even look at his mother’s injuries. They push their way to safety, whereupon Maria collapses. With the help of villagers, they end up in a hospital that is completely flooded (sorry) with patients.
They are convinced that Henry, Thomas, and Simon have been killed.
Terrible and wonderful things happen in the hospital. Some wonderful things are terrible.
We fade to Henry’s legs as he finds one of his family’s toys. He’s searching and injured. He has the two youngest. He has to make a horrifying decision based on faith and trust.
No punches are pulled, no superfluous drama occurs (except perhaps the woman in shock who stargazes), but the family somehow comes together. It is impossible beyond description, but it is true.
We know it’s true; we know it’s going to happen. It’s still nearly impossible to not shout at Lucas to JUST TURN AROUND!
Simon, the dearest little boy, saves everyone. You will love how this is done. If you’re a parent, you will cry large tears. You might even do this if you’re not a parent.
The story is thin and offers nothing special beyond the fact that it’s true. We know the start and the end. We know the opening half of the first act is there to convince us this is a loving, devoted family with normal issues but that is very happy together. We know horrific events are going to transpire. We know a miraculous reunion will come to pass.
But this movie succeeds resoundingly for two reasons: an extraordinary cast with abilities that magnify each other and every attempt made to keep sentiment to a realistic level– keeping these people on the level of humans.
Naomi Watts does a great job portraying a mother who is trying not to give up after losing 3/4 of her family. Ewan McGregor is excellent, plumbing the depths of a father who is so close to completely broken but who must trust, trust, and trust some more. The scene on the phone is heart-rending.
But Tom Holland as Lucas– this boy can act. He has a great deal of experience on the musical stage, so you wouldn’t necessarily expect this boy to be able to act with subtle ability and strength. He is the main character and he should have received Oscar and other award recognition. His resolve, love, stark terror, near-paralyzing grief, and honesty carry this film along beautifully.
What a lovely movie that does great justice to an extremely blessed family. It does not whitewash the horror, does not act as if God determined that these people should live and others die, does not pass judgment. Some overly artistic interpretation in some scenes is overlookable.
This is a great movie experience.
Content warnings: There are scenes of extreme injury, as well as a few entirely non-sexual shots of a woman’s breasts.
Writing: 4 Acting: 5 Overall: 4.5
It would be impossible for me to become a famous reviewer if you didn’t share this review with your friends. I’ve made it easy for you– just click below.
Also, did you see this movie? What did you think? Does Naomi Watts deserve the Oscar?