The Impossible (2012)

JUAN ANTONIO BAYONA

Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBB.5

Original title:  Lo Imposible

Spain, 2012.  Mediaset España, Summit Entertainment, Apaches Entertainment, Telecinco Cinema, Canal+ España, Películas la Trini, Instituto de la Cinematografía y de las Artes Audiovisuales, Generalitat Valenciana, Institut Valencià de Cinematografia, DragonCove Studios.  Story by , Screenplay by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by , , .  Film Editing by , European Film Awards 2013.  

The tsunami that struck the shores of Thailand in 2004, devastating thousands of lives including citizens and tourists, is the subject of this harrowing drama that focuses on the remarkable story of one family’s survival. After the enormous, unexpected waves hit the shores of their beachside resort (in a marvelously executed sequence), mom (Naomi Watts, who is terrific) comes to consciousness clinging to a tree in the middle of a relentlessly fast current. United quickly with her eldest son Lucas (), the two of them walk to safety bearing the nastiest of wounds (hers are particularly dire) under the assumption that her husband (Ewan McGregor) and two sons have perished. Meanwhile, the other members of her family are back at the resort waiting to be evacuated to safety but McGregor wants his younger sons to go ahead while he continues the search for his wife and child. Director Juan Antonio Bayona focuses the entire devastation of this event on one family and in doing so manages to encompass a great breadth of the experience: the fact that all five persons stayed alive is a miracle, but the filmmaker wisely includes constant reminders, right up until the very last scene, that many did not, emphasizing both the weight of the event as well as the miracle of the story presented here. It’s not a film completely devoid of melodrama, it veers between the powerful and mawkish at regular intervals without realizing where its strengths are. When Holland tells his mother that he can’t look at her injuries (which are presented with impressively graphic honesty) and she tells him to walk ahead of her, it’s a completely unforced moment that hits so much deeper than any of the scenes that are meant to be “powerful” (including family members finding each other after the disaster, oddly enough). Thanks to very little development of the characters of the family members, the film fails to hit deeply enough to stay with you, but while you’re watching it you will be held to the screen by the powerful acting and strong photography. Based on the true story of Maria and Quique Belon, whose story has strangely been filmed in Spain by a Spanish crew and yet features British actors with their personalities culturally transported.

Academy Award NominationBest Actress (Naomi Watts)

Golden Globe Award Nomination:   Best Actress-Drama (Naomi Watts)

Screen Actors Guild Award Nomination:  Best Female Actor (Naomi Watts)

Toronto International Film Festival:   2012

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