4 out 5 stars
Everyone in the world seems to have sustained some sort of injury during this past year. Regardless if these pains are physical, emotional or spiritual, sometimes we need something outside of ourselves to help us get back up again. Penguin Bloom is a unique twist on a familiar story of rediscovery that should be on people’s watch list. The Bloom family's true-to-life narrative involving an orphaned magpie could prove to be part of the healing process for us all.
After a tragic holiday accident in Thailand, Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) was left paralysed below the waist. This life-altering injury had a ripple effect that reverberated throughout her family and everyone in her world. In an active household with three young boys, the former nurse felt that she was a burden to everyone. Despite the support of her loving husband, Cameron (Andrew Lincoln) and her family, Sam chooses to remain isolated in their family home on Australia's beaches.
One day, their son Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston) brings home a young magpie who had fallen out of its nest. The boys keep the helpless bird to care for it until it can fly and decide to name her, Penguin. A task that starts as an annoyance for everyone, until the animal becomes part of the family. She even begins to break into the isolation of Sam’s existence and helps her to start the healing process. As the young mother looks past her limitations and sees the possibilities of her new life, the whole family begins to see how they can fly again.
It would be easy to dismiss the Bloom family’s story as another predictable inspirational tale. Still, people should allow this bird to come in to roost for a time. There is something special about Penguin’s influence on this family that will help all of the broken souls in the world to heal. Not that everyone should go out and adopt orphaned hatchlings, but this film may be the salve that will start the healing process for many.
Naomi Watts manages to commit to this performance as producer and actor by showing the depth of anguish experienced by Sam Bloom. Even though the film is named after the magpie, the story's centrepiece falls into her lap. She carries this film through with the superb support of Andrew Lincoln, Jacki Weaver (Silver Lining Playbook) and everyone’s favourite New Zealand actress, Rachel House (Hunt for the Wilderpeople). Not to dismiss the role of the eight birds who played Penguin, because it was amazing to see how these trained animals performed. They added to the subtle and winning combination of an inspiring story, wonderful actors and supporting characters that made for a great beginning to the new year.
Penguin Bloom is an uncommonly stirring journey for all audiences. One that will provide families the opportunity to share time together and look ahead to the possibilities of life in the years to come.
REEL DIALOGUE: Are we only meant to suffer in this life?
Sam Bloom’s story of healing may make many ponder the statement, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.” Woven into this harrowing tale of loss, suffering and recovery is the consideration of how far people can be stretched. With the influence of a magpie on her shoulder and a loving family, Sam was eventually powered by the desire to reclaim her life from her circumstances.
What needs to be considered is how the difficulties in life, if we survive them, can make us better in the end. Job's remarkable story in the Old Testament of the Bible gives us a glimpse into a similar experience to the Bloom family’s experiences. Specifically, how there can be a more significant reason behind the challenges of life. The reason for the difficulties may not all be explained in this lifetime. Still, they can be used to show how life’s tribulations can potentially bless others and honour God.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. –1 Peter 5:10