Grittily shot documentary-style, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor’s latest starrer, “The Impossible,” recalls in harrowing detail the real-life disaster that was the huge tsunami wave that hit Thailand some years ago. The two stars play the parents of three young boys.
They’re all on vacation, being pampered at a beach-side resort-hotel—until the killer wave obliterates everything around them, causing the death of hundreds of victims.
At first, Watts and her oldest son fear that the other members of their family have also been killed, but they do their best to survive, despite the injuries they themselves have sustained.
Not just from drowning
The film shows that fatalities in a tsunami assault don’t come only from drowning but also from being bludgeoned by the many heavy objects, including parts of houses and vehicles, that make being caught in that huge wall of water like being trapped in a giant washing machine!
The film’s first half focuses on Watts and her son, so we get to know them really well, and empathize with them as they try to stay alive, while looking for their loved ones.
We admire the mother for taking care of her son despite her serious injuries, but we end up admiring the adolescent boy more, because he manfully takes over as she continues to weaken, and is eventually responsible for their joint survival.
One of the film’s most affecting sequences shows the lad rising above his family’s personal tragedy, by volunteering to help reunite other families torn apart by the disaster.
He goes around an emergency hospital, calling out the names of people, and when a survivor answers back, he swiftly effects the much-longed-for reunion!
What makes the situation ironic for him is the fact that, even as he helps other people to find their loved ones, his own father and siblings are still missing—and quite possibly dead.
Still, he forges on, and viewers empathetically learn an important lesson in the process: Even if you suffer a personal loss, you can still be of help to others—and, in the process of helping them, your own feelings of pain and loss will be assuaged.
Later, it turns out that the other members of the boy’s family have also survived the disaster, so it’s only a matter of time before they eventually get reunited.
But, the process of reunification takes longer than expected, so everyone’s resolve is sorely tested—including viewers’ own fervent hope for an eventually happy ending to this tragic tale.
When that does happen, however, it’s nothing short of a miracle: All five members of the family find each other in the same emergency hospital’s grounds, after previously missing one another by only a few seconds—as viewers watch with fear and trembling!
The only major fly in the docu-drama’s ointment is the fact that most of the tsunami victims depicted in its storytelling are not shown praying for divine assistance. Well, that’s the reality in some European’s lives, so we can’t fault the movie for telling it like it really is.
Despite this and other less-than-inspiring moments, however, Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” is a vividly affecting and empathetic viewing experience, because its actors and production staffers value reality and believability above all else.