On Tuesday night, The Impossible became my first new film of the year. As promised, I am going to be providing my eloquent and extremely important thoughts on each new film I watch this year. I’ll avoid major spoilers, because I’m nice like that, but if you are averse to knowing anything about a film you haven’t seen, you might want to steer clear of these posts.
I’ve also decided that these posts may require a brief synopsis of the plot, so I’m adding that in.
The Impossible is the true story of Maria and Henry Belon and their three children, who take a holiday from their home in Japan to Thailand, in December 2006. They are caught up in the devastating Boxing Day tsunami, and separated from one another, searching desperately throughout the film to reunite.
What I Liked
- The lead performances. Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, as Maria and Henry, are pretty darn great, but it’s probably ridiculous to expect much else. Oscar nominations are out today; I can’t really see either of them beating off fierce competition to be named in their respective categories, though Watts has a much better chance than McGregor.
- The supporting performances. There are only five main characters in this film, and the other three characters are the three sons of the Belons. Tom Holland, who plays the oldest son Lucas, is outstanding, and has received a number of nominations in breakthrough and young performance categories; all thoroughly deserved. The two younger boys in the film are fantastic in their own way too, being given less to do than Holland but shining when the spotlight is on them.
- It’s brutal. I am not usually a fan of brutal, but this is a subject matter where anything less than sheer brutality would feel like a cheat.
- It’s emotional. I cried a lot at this film, for a variety of different reasons, but in true cathartic style, I loved it. Just when I thought I was done with the crying, something else would happen, and I was off again, Right up to the penultimate scene of the film. And when Ewan McGregor cries (in any film), I’m a goner.
- It’s a disaster movie. And disaster movies are great. Sure, it’s an emotional, leave-you-sobbing-on-the-floor disaster movie, but still. I was expecting a scene showing the family at the beach, watching the water recede and wondering what was happening, but all you get is the family at the pool, hearing a dull rumble and watching the palm trees snap down, before the wave hits, and it’s incredible.
- It’s a true story. Watching a disaster play out on this scale and remembering that people actually lived through it is an intense feeling.
What I Didn’t Like
- It’s brutal. I know, I know, I said up there that I liked its brutality. What I should say is that I appreciated it, rather than enjoyed it, because there are some bits where I just couldn’t watch. An underwater section in particular, and Maria’s extensive injuries. And a scene involving choking/vomiting that will never leave me.
- The whiteness of it all. The family on which this story is based are Spanish, but have been changed to English for the purposes of the film. A bit of artistic license is understandable; you can cast Spanish actors, probably reducing the mainstream appeal, and either have them speaking English, or subtitle it. Or you go for a British sounding actors and pretend that they are a nice middle class family. So far, no real problems. But most of the people that the family encounter throughout the film are very European, apart from the odd Thai native. I know that the film is very much about this family’s story, and not the story of the devastating effects of the tsunami as a whole, but still. It leaves you feeling maybe a little bit uncomfortable, but probably not at all surprised.
All in all, the negatives that I have listed barely detract from the film at all. I had to wrack my brains to really think of any, that’s how much I enjoyed it.
Unfortunately, my enjoyment was tempered somewhat by the mega-annoying couple who sat to my right and decided to sit and talk to each other throughout the film. They were doing that fun thing where they wait until there is a slight lull in the action to discuss, at a normal conversational volume, what they had just seen. A couple of glares (round my friend Rob, who was sitting between them and me), was not enough, so in the end I shushed them! I whispered “Would you mind talking a bit more quietly please, we’re trying to watch the film.” At which point I got quite a haughty look, and from then they more or less continued in much the same vein, after she had said “Ooh, just been asked to talk more quietly!” as though my request was the most unreasonable thing you could possibly imagine. Bloody people!