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  Impossible, The The Wave
Year: 2012
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Stars: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin, Oaklee Pendergast, Marta Etura, Sönke Möhring, Geraldine Chaplin, Ploy Jindachote, Jomjaoi Sae-Limh, Johan Sundberg, Jan Roland Sundberg, La-Orng Thongruang, Tor Klathaley, Douglas Johansson
Genre: Drama, HistoricalBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Maria (Naomi Watts) lives in Japan with her family; she used to be a doctor but gave that up to raise her three sons, and now her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) is the breadwinner. They're comfortable enough to be able to afford a holiday in Thailand for Christmas, and though flying makes her nervous Maria will be glad to spend time with them at a relaxing seaside resort. They arrived on Christmas Eve, spent an enjoyable Christmas Day at the hotel and its surroundings, then came Boxing Day where they were all by the pool when suddenly everyone heard a terrible roar...

This was Boxing Day 2004, the day that there was a massive earthquake in the Indian Ocean and a devastating tsunami was the result, and The Impossible was a Spanish film telling the story of a family who were caught up in that awful event. Except there were grumbles almost from its release about the recasting of genuine Spanish people for a bunch of English-speakers, a factor which brought about the dreaded racism criticism when the film was regarded as concentrating on the Westerners at the expense of the locals who after all had to live there and had just seen their homes washed away.

However, Maria Belon, the real life Maria, had worked closely with the filmmakers to craft this just to her satisfaction, even picking Naomi Watts to play her surrogate character thanks to her being Maria's favourite actress. So she was very pleased with the way this turned out, and you reasonably could argue that seeing the waterlogged landscape from the point of view of visitors to the country could very well bring home the gravity of the situation to foreigners who after all would be consisting of much of the audience. Plus the Thais we see are nothing but generous and caring, doing their best under harrowing circumstances to see that everyone, not only their nationals, is looked after.

Obviously seeing their country under these circumstances would not be a great advertisement for a holiday there, but the way we watch them cope was a testament to their character, even if it was through the eyes of people who could return to intact homes abroad after their part in the nightmare was over. If you could put up with the manipulation of your emotions, then The Impossible was a distinctly accomplished work, but while there was a lot about this which aimed successfully for a gut reaction, you were often aware of the techniques they were applying to bring about those feelings. They were certainly effective if the tales of audiences both weeping and fainting in cinemas were to be reckoned with.

Weeping because the fears of abandonment, isolation and loss were never far away, and seen in the context of the tsunami were naturally emotive because if you had any concern for humanity at all there would be no way you could fail to be moved. Although Watts was the one who got the Oscar nomination, apparently because she dared to look so absolutely dreadful in it, you couldn't dismiss either Tom Holland playing her son Lucas, who becomes the main character in a way when he is left with his injured mother, separated from the rest of the family, or more importantly Ewan McGregor who excelled at the big emotional scenes, tugging the hearstrings as an ordinary dad who lands in extraordinary tragedy and struggles to endure while knowing he cannot give up hope. But then there was the fainting: be advised the injuries depicted in the film were queasily realistic, all the more so for being based in fact. So you may have reservations, but The Impossible was powerful for all that. Music by Fernando Velázquez.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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