For the sake of all that is good and beautiful in filmmaking, please go see “The Impossible.”
The movie, starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, is based on the true story of a family who was caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The result is one of the most wonderful, gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, beautiful and terrifying films I have ever seen in my entire life. Bring at least one family member, because you’ll desperately need to hug those you love most once the credits have rolled.
This is the first English-language film for director Juan Antonio Bayona, and if his future work is as good as this, we’re all in for a real treat. We know what’s going to happen from the very first second, but Bayona is so good at building a sense of breathless dread that even shots of calm, still water will make your pulse jump.
Then the worst happens, and Bayona pulls the audience right in with the characters. We follow the family into the water, as blind and confused as they were, and it lets us taste just a tiny bit of the terror they must have felt. We feel every crash and missed grab.
The acting is also exemplary. Watts fully deserves her Golden Globe nomination as the matriarch of the clan, but McGregor and newcomer Tom Holland deserve awards as well. Both Watts and McGregor are wrenching, balancing fear, courage and grief beautifully. When McGregor was overcome with helpless tears at one point, I wanted to cry as well.
Holland, as the oldest son of the family, was even better. The actor was only 13 when he filmed the movie, which ricochets his character through every shade of courage, terror and hope that you could pile on a person.
He made all of it clear on his wonderfully expressive face, often without needing to say a single word. At one point, he made me cry on the strength of that expression alone. I was watching a boy grow up right in front of my eyes, and Holland made me believe every second of the journey. I expect fantastic things from his future as well.
Some might argue that the movie is wrong in focusing on the plight of a white family, but Bayona and the cast do everything they can to make us feel the grief of all the masses of people who were affected. There’s death, sorrow and pain around every corner of this destroyed world, too much for one person to ever properly take in. The movie doesn’t shy away from any of it.
But there’s hope, too. It’s all the sweeter for its rarity in “The Impossible,” and you’ll cherish every drop of it you get. The movie even sends some home with you Р when I left the theater, I felt very blessed to be alive and on dry ground.
I also felt extraordinarily lucky to have experienced something so beautiful. Go see it for yourself. Once you’ve dried your tears and pried your fingers off your armrest, you’ll thank me.