(M) Naomi Watts, Ewan Macgregor, Tom Holland
The trailers and Academy Awards nominations for this film seemed to suggest that it was worthwhile viewing and it was a film I had high on my list to see.
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, it is a Spanish co-production telling one family’s true story of surviving the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami.
Maria (Watts), Henry (McGregor) and their three sons begin their winter vacation in Thailand, looking forward to a few days in tropical paradise. But on that fateful morning, as the family relaxes around the pool after their Christmas festivities the night before, a terrifying roar rises up from the centre of the earth.
As the family freezes in fear, a huge wall of black water races across the hotel grounds toward them, separating them as the water travels devastatingly across the landscape.
What the film does well is the recreation of the tsunami and its after effects.
The family is separated and the camera first follows the horrifying ordeal of Maria and her oldest son Lucas (Holland) as the water rushes over them, swirling them through the debris.
While they struggle to keep their heads above water, you hold your breath as the terrifying spectacle unfolds before you.
Shot like a documentary rather than a blockbuster, it constantly reminds the audience of the fragility of life in the midst of such catastrophic events.
Maria and Lucas are finally rescued by locals and ferried to a local hospital overrun by the thousands of injured locals and holiday-makers.
Kilometres away Henry and their two other sons huddle together but Henry makes a snap decision to send the two small boys to higher ground with strangers as he looks for Maria and Lucas in the rubble.
To its credit, the film doesn’t sensationalise the plight of the family, each assuming the other half of the family has been killed. Shot like a documentary rather than a blockbuster, it constantly reminds the audience of the fragility of life in the midst of such catastrophic events.
After the initial disaster subsides, though, the story becomes incredible — and not just the film’s miraculous, “impossible”, resolution.
Why, once separated and re-united, would parents let children out of their sight in such utter chaos? Can travel insurance really provide such personalised, Rapture-ous deliverance?
It’s all very artfully and flawlessly filmed; even gripping in parts. And the family’s story makes for compelling viewing. But, as the film’s final frames unfold, it’s hard not to think about those left behind.