The healing power of nature is the central theme to the presentation of the true-life story presented in Penguin Bloom. And this film is a powerful story of what it takes to overcome trauma and to build a new life for yourself and your family.
Penguin Bloom tells the true story of Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) a young mother whose world is turned upside down after a near-fatal accident leaves her paralyzed. Sam’s husband, (Andrew Lincoln), her three young boys and her mother (Jacki Weaver), are struggling to adjust to their new situation when an unlikely ally enters their world in the form of an injured baby magpie they name Penguin. The bird’s arrival is a welcome distraction for the Bloom family, eventually making a profound difference in the family’s life.
Based on the true story of Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts), an Australian nurse who suffered a devastating accident that left her paralysed and bound to a wheelchair, Penguin Bloom follows how Sam is ultimately able to heal through the help of her son’s adopted magpie Penguin and the strength that this little bird brings to her family. Director Glendyn Ivin tells a deeply moving family drama through Penguin Bloom, and while it might at first appear to be nothing more than a fluffy story, Ivin instead presents a powerful story of overcoming adversity in the face of scarring trauma.
Australian actress Naomi Watts is able to return to her roots with Penguin Bloom, and she’s incredibly compelling in the role of the real-life Sam Bloom. Suffering in the midst of a life-altering injury, Watts presents the hurt, pain, fear, anxiety, and anger that many people go through when having to deal with such a heavy ordeal. Watts is emotionally raw in the part and is in a very bad way when we first meet her. But slowly, and steadily through the companionship, she finds through orphaned magpie Penguin she is able to rise above her pain and chart a new course for her life.
Watts’ performance as Sam can best be described as authentic. She does an incredible job honouring the true-life Sam and her powerful journey to overcome her disability and the pain that it causes her. She’s incredibly real in the part, and her performance carries the film’s three-act structure and the dramatic depth at its base. Matching Watts in her performance is Andrew Lincoln as Sam’s husband Cameron who is having to deal with the fallout from his wife’s accident, and at times their new lives completely overwhelm him. But he’s always there for his wife, and with the help from their children, and a little spark of joy from Penguin, the Bloom’s are able to move past trauma and find new hope in their lives.
As an audience member, Penguin Bloom is a movie that plays with your emotions on all levels and it definitely not what audiences might first expect it to be. While it is a family drama, I for one was not expecting how heavy the emotions would get in this film. Especially during the first act when Sam is having to come to terms with her new life, and the hardships it brings, along with a shocking moment in the third act that causes plenty of hysteria and hurt for the Bloom family and Penguin. The strength of this narrative is down to both Ivin’s direction and the performances of Watts and Lincoln, and Penguin Bloom is a very moving experience for audiences.
Penguin Bloom is ultimately a story about how one can find a new life for themselves. and that joy often arrives in the most unexpected places, symbolized by the Bloom’s magpie Penguin, who’s a real little rascal. It’s a powerful film that hits you with its unexpected dramatic weight and again proves why Australian cinema is some of the best in the world.
Image: Roadshow Films