On a winter vacation in Thailand, the Bennett family has just checked in at the Orchid resort. Lighting lanterns, snorkeling and swimming at the pool filled their days surrounding Christmas. While at the pool one day, the wind picked up and, in the distance, a tidal wave was approaching the coast. Attempting to save their children, Maria screamed for Lucas to dive into the water and Henry grabbed the other boys and huddled together just before the water hit. Rising to the surface, Maria tries to find a place to stabilize herself when she sees Lucas in the distance. The waters calm for a moment and wash back out to sea, furthering injuring the mother and son. With the water finally receded, Maria and Lucas try to look for shelter when they finally realize the extent of their injuries. Needing medical attention, they begin to scout out any option to get to safety. Meanwhile, Henry finds his other two sons after the wave but is struggling to try to find Maria and Lucas before losing hope.
Starring: Naomi Watts (Maria), Ewan McGregor (Henry), Tom Holland (Lucas), Samuel Joslin (Thomas), Oaklee Pendergast (Simon), Marta Etura (Simone), Sonke Mohring (Karl), Johan Sundberg (Daniel), Jan Roland Sundberg (Daniel’s father), Douglas Johansson (Mr. Benstrom), Geraldine Chaplin (Old Woman)
In a disaster film like this, pain and suffering are some of the common traits the actors have to try and portray. Watts is phenomenal as she struggles through the wave, struggling for survival and her losing battle with her injuries. McGregor is just as strong as he has a number of moments where he struggles with the potential loss of his family. The breakout child star of this film is definitely Joslin. With his somewhat bratty personality before the disaster, he shows significant strength and emotion between his struggles to survive and care for his mother.
Juan Antonio Bayona took a real story of survival and tried to bring it to life on the big screen. Setting up the family connections through a few moments prior to the tidal wave, it is clear that the Bennetts are rather close, even with the few moments of stubbornness from Lucas. When the wave hit, the family was split in half. Focusing mostly on Maria’s and Lucas’s story, the storm significantly injured but did not completely break their bond and spirit. Though Maria was seriously hurt, they pressed on until they finally were discovered by a couple of locals. While the wave was difficult enough to survive, Maria found herself struggling to hold on between not knowing the condition of the rest of her family, wanting to support her son and never confident that she would recover from her injuries.
Meanwhile, Henry found himself in a tough situation as well. While he survived the storm in much better condition and he was able to find Thomas and Simon, he had his own challenges following the initial survival. Wanting to find Maria and Lucas, he had to make a difficult choice to send his boys with some of the other survivors while he continued to search at the resort and then travel to other shelters and hospitals. He was giving up hope as he went from shelter to shelter with no luck. To make matters worse, the woman he left his kids with let them get separated. Finally finding the hospital where Maria and Lucas were at but not knowing they were there, he almost missed his chance to be reunited. And, by chance, Thomas and Simon ended up at the same hospital with a chance to find each other.
One of the surprise films of the year, this story is a real tearjerker and is 100% captivating to watch. If it were not a little different from most of the Oscar contenders, it would be a great pick for best film of the year.
Dan’s Rating: 5.0/5