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Truth is stranger than fiction

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WATTS AND HOLLAND. Refuse to get stuck in ponderous melodrama.

You’ll find yourself flinching at the sight of suffering depicted in the compelling true-to-life drama, “The Impossible.” Triggered by the third-strongest earthquake ever recorded  (with a magnitude of 9.2), the December 2004 tsunami swept away coastal communities with waves of up to 98 feet high and killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries!

Juan Antonio Bayona, the director of 2007’s outstanding horror drama, “The Orphanage,” puts an intimate spin on the story by zeroing in on the account of the Belons, a Spanish family of five headed by Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (the Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts), caught up in the catastrophe that hit Thailand.

During the tsunami, Maria and her eldest son, Lucas (the terrific Tom Holland), are separated from Henry and their two younger sons. There won’t be spoilers here, but the film is a must-see because the incredible circumstances that follow are what set their story apart, and are nothing short of, well, miraculous.

Intimate moments

More than the suffering and tragic losses that we see in the aftermath of the disaster, the film underscores man’s resilience and generosity. Tying up the narrative threads that weave Henry and Maria’s story together is daunting, but Bayona knows that his film’s intimate moments are key to its cohesive focus. If we were to find ourselves in the same situation, would we be as brave, generous and relentlessly hopeful?

If the movie weren’t based on true events, it would be hard to accept it’s seemingly deus ex machina moments—but, as they say, truth is stranger than fiction!

Disaster sets the tragic events in motion, but Bayona and his exceptional actors play it real and refuse to get stuck in ponderous melodrama.

The film is a showcase for Watts’ unerring thespic choices and dramatic finesse. The 44-year-old actress, who will next be seen portraying the coveted title role in Oliver Hirschbiegel’s Princess Diana biopic, is the dark horse in the Best Actress race at the Oscars on Feb. 24.

Last nominated for 2003’s “21 Grams,” Watts will slug it out with frontrunners, Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) and Jennifer Lawrence (“Silver Linings Playbook”). They won the drama and comedy acting categories at this year’s Golden Globes, and are no strangers to the Oscars—Chastain (who turns in another “vanishing act” in this week’s No. 1 horror hit, “Mama”) was nominated last year for “The Help,” while Lawrence, the overachieving star of “The Hunger Games,” earned a Best Actress citation for 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.”

Completing the five-way race are the oldest and youngest contenders in the history of the Academy Awards: 85-year-old Emmanuelle Riva (“Amour”), and 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”), who was only 5 years old when she was chosen from among 3,500 hopefuls!

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