Alice Oscura, Featured Writer
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead.
Plot: Samantha Bloom (Naomi Watts of The Ring, The Impossible) accidentally breaks her back while on vacation with her family in Thailand. The result is partial paralysis which leaves the avid surfer and adventurer a broken shell of her former self. A year after the accident her son Noah brings home an injured magpie chick that begins the journey of healing for Sam, and becomes the newest addition to the Bloom family.
Review: Penguin Bloom is based on a real life but painful story. It took place back in 2013 when the real Blooms decided to take a trip to Thailand for their first family holiday. After Samantha Bloom leaned against a safety barrier that ran along an observation deck her life changed forever. The barrier gave way and sent her crashing into the unyielding tiles on the ground below. After further investigation, the Thai Police discovered that the barrier was rotten and neglected.
The film follows the events that occurred a year after the tragic accident. She returns to the family home in Australia wheelchair-bound. Her once familiar safe environment has now become strange and implacable. She struggles to find her place in the family, feeling like she has now become a burden to her loving husband Cam (Andrew Lincoln of Love Actually and The Walking Dead) and a failure as a mother in the eyes of her three energetic boys. However, nothing could be further from the truth, and no one feels the guilt of what happened to Sam more than her eldest son Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston). He secretly blamed himself for encouraging his mother to go up to the deck with him and he can’t stop thinking that it was all his fault.
When Noah finds an injured magpie which he names “Penguin” the dynamic slowly but surely begins to shift for the Bloom family. Sam is at her breaking point when one day she smashes some framed pictures of herself that only serve as a constant reminder of a person that she once was and will never be again. However, there is an eventual turning point in Sam’s life when she decides to learn to kayak and, with the help of her instructor Gaye (Rachel House), she perseveres to renew her life-long love of the sea.
The noisy little magpie soon matures and learns to fly after overcoming her injuries. Peng’s maiden flight is an extremely inspiring moment that demonstrated to Sam how she could still take control of her life without giving up who she was at her core.
Samantha goes on to pursue a new dream and, in a way, becomes a hybrid of the person that she once was whilst adapting to her new situation in life. The real-life Samantha Bloom became the holder of two national kayaking titles.
British actress Naomi Watts inspires and impresses with her powerfully emotional performance as Samantha Bloom. Penguin Bloom is also loaded with striking visuals of the South Wales coastline. I particularly enjoyed the deck at the top of the Bloom’s house where the kids would just jump off to land on a strategically placed trampoline below like little daredevils, indicating that Sam had passed on her adventurous nature to her boys.
Veteran Australian actress Jacki Weaver, however, is underused as the quirky, constantly-worried mother of Sam. Andrew Lincoln has excellent chemistry with Watts, but I felt that he was also a tad bit underused as well. I would have liked to have seen a bit more development in the husband and wife relationship. And who can resist the adorably, clumsy magpie awkwardly strutting from room to room, causing loads of mischief, cuddling with her stuffed monkey, and pooping anywhere she pleased.
The ending credits are particularly touching, showing candid shots taken of the real Bloom family with the real Penguin the Magpie. Just have a giant box of tissues at the ready guys, cause this one is not only awe-inspiring, but is an emotionally-charged film for the softies out there.
Alice’s Score: 7 out of 10
For my review of another touching film based on a true true story, the World War II drama A Hidden Life, you can click here.
Dark Alice has an old soul and a curious mind. I believe that anyone can be a hero and that the good guys should always win! I dislike cruelty to animals and think that they have far superior qualities to humans. My motto is there is no future without the past. I also have a weird penchant for Paranormal TV shows even though the slightest sound makes me jump. I enjoy writing reviews and throwing in fun facts to pique the readers’ curiosity. My ultimate goal in life would be to become a published writer one day. You can find me as Dark Alice Reviews on Facebook, my Instagram is alice_oscura and my Twitter handle is @lise_veliz2. For more on me you can click here.