The Impossible – Film Review
‘The Impossible’ directed by JA Bayona, tells the true story of a Spanish family’s experience of the 2004 tsunami that swept through Southeast Asia, affecting the lives of many people in Thailand and the Philippines, and killing an estimated 220,000. The family consists of Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor), his wife Maria (Naomi Watts), and their three children.
The film starts with the family flying to Thailand for the Christmas holidays and shows us the ordinariness of their relationships together; The kids argue on the flight, the wife repeatedly asks Henry if he turned off all electricity devices before leaving and the youngest son comes to his mum crying that he’s scared of flying. All regular things you would expect from a family, and this immediately allows the audience to connect and relate to the Bennett family. The tsunami happens a few days into their holiday – they are at the beach, the three boys playing in the pool with their dad as the mother sunbathes, when something suddenly goes wrong. Before they know it, the tsunami has struck and they are separated, desperately fighting for survival.
The scenes following are terrifying and uncomfortable viewing for many people. Most shots were filmed in Thailand and they give the film an authentic feel. The camera bobs in and out of darkness, in and out of water, as Maria struggles for breath. She finally find a palm tree and clings to it hopelessly, screaming for help as she finally spots her eldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), floating in the fierce waves. From this point on, the film is hugely carried by Holland and Watts. Tom Holland’s acting is sincere, as 11-year-old Lucas tries to protect his injured mother. During every moment, his facial expressions and emotions in his eyes convey more than words could. His extreme fright is clear as he attempts to deal with the pain and devastation.
Tom has a touching rapport with his on-screen mother. There are some incredibly acted scenes from the pair throughout the film. Naomi Watts gives possibly her best performance to date. She shows the agony, pain and desperation of a loving mother in a tragic situation. Her sense of caring due to her character being a doctor, results in her asking Lucas to go around and try and help anyone who needs it – something that Lucas finds difficult to do but attempts out of love and respect for his mum.
Although the majority of the story is focused on Lucas and Maria, gradually the audience find out about rest of the family and their fates too. Despite not featuring in the film much, Ewan McGregor’s acting as the father is exceptional as he desperately tries to put his family back together. There is one particular scene in which his extreme pain and worry finally explodes into an outburst of cries. To watch a grown man cry like that and not find it heartbreaking is impossible. The two youngest sons show the innocence of childhood as they try to comprehend the tragedy of the event, forced to mature quickly and look after each other.
Overall, this is a heartwarming story about never giving up. It reminds us of the true kindness of humanity in times of fear and loss. The Bennett’s story of love, determination and bravery is emotional but inspiring.