Penguin Bloom Movie Review: An uplifting film about hope and understanding
Knowing that the film is based on a true story helps us get past the slightly whimsical nature of the one-liner
A black-and-white magpie is injured and unable to fly. A freak accident leaves Sam Bloom (a brilliant Naomi Watts) paralysed waist-down for the rest of her life. The Blooms take in the magpie under their wings and name her Penguin. In a weird yet uplifting way, just as Penguin finds the wind beneath her wings to fly away, the Blooms come to terms with the trauma of their life.
Knowing that the film is based on a true story helps us get past the slightly whimsical nature of the one-liner. In a world where cynicism rules the roost, it is refreshing to see a film that wants us to believe in the true meaning of family and love. Although the film has its share of overdone cliches, it isn’t a saccharine tale. Things get ugly and messy. The question is, can peace be found despite all the volatility?
Cast: Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln, Jacki Weaver, Rachel House
Director: Glendyn Ivin
Streaming on: Netflix
The best scenes of the film are those in which Sam suffers meltdowns, when she realises she can’t provide for her family. Her children now call out to their dad, Cam (a wonderfully restrained Andrew Lincoln) for help. Though Cam tries to be a supportive husband, he too loses his cool occasionally when trying to stop her from feeling self-pity. Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston), the eldest of their three boys, is dealing with guilt of his own. In cinema, we are barely shown parents who harbour any ill-will towards children, but writers Shaun Grant and Harry Cripps let Sam be a woman first and then, a mother. This is crucial because Sam has to come to terms with her life-altering, life-long condition not just as a mother, but also as a wife, and a formerly athletic woman.
Penguin Bloom tries to paint an honest tale of understanding trauma and surviving it as a family. Although there is much silence in the film, some wonderful work by composer Marcelo Zarvas helps add life to this tale. It might seem that the bird in the house doesn’t do much other than strutting about and chirping loud, but you never know what can serve to inspire a fragile human mind.
It helps that Penguin Bloom is set in Australia. The vast expanses of the ocean and the closeness to wildlife feel organic. The film looks understatedly beautiful and has a pristine quality to it that counterbalances the bleakness of the Bloom household. Finally, when the credits roll, we see pictures of the real Bloom family. By this time, the trauma has given way to understanding. We see her wonderful family dealing with things one day at a time. We know that Penguin has finally taken its flight to be among the clouds. These are cinematic cliches, and yet, it’s impossible not to shed a tear. It’s impossible not to flash a wide smile at once. This film serves as a reminder that cliches exist because… they work.