THE IMPOSSIBLE is the new film from Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona. It’s a story about the Tsunami that hit Thailand on December 26th, 2004, and what it did to one family in particular. The parents in this family are played by Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts.
The film begins well enough, and does some intense things when simulating the tidal wave that caused so much devastation that day. Following our characters through that immense rush of water, watching them get tossed around like rag dolls, makes for an impressive start to the film. However, once Naomi Watts’ character Maria, and her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) finally come to a stop, things go downhill fast.
Of all the actors, Tom Holland does the best with what he’s been given, and when I squinted just so, I got memories of EMPIRE OF THE SUN. Unfortunately, when it comes to telling a tale like this, the tendency is to drift over into the area of manipulative melodrama, and IMPOSSIBLE does just that. Perhaps nothing makes the film feel this way more than the ever-swelling score that plays underneath the action time and again. It’s as if it doesn’t its audience to know when to be sad and when to be happy, and wants to hammer it home for them.
In short, this is a sappy screenplay, which while true, is not done any favours by the way its scenes are constructed, and the fact that it is focused on the survival of a family of privilege. The devastation in Thailand affected thousands – both tourists and locals alike. However, THE IMPOSSIBLE barely gives us a glimmer into the plight of the locals. It feels a bit disingenuous to stand up and tell a tale of how this disaster was survived, and not even pay lip service to the people who lost everything. Sure, it’s terrible that a lot of rich tourists were killed, injured, and dislocated…but many more who were killed, injured, and dislocated were locals. It feels wrong not to bring them into the story beyond just a token glimmer every now and then.
The pity of it all, is that the survivors of this event only want to talk about the event so many times. It’s taken eight years for them to finally be ready to talk about it, and this is the movie they get for their candour.
In its quietest moments, when there are no symphonic scores, or balling cries for a missing person, IMPOSSIBLE gets close. When the sounds we hear are only silence, or the rush of water, the film is an intense tribute to those who went through this ordeal.
Unfortunately those moments are few and far between.