‘The Impossible’ stuns, provides realistic portrayal of disaster

Lauren Puckett

The Impossible is one of the hardest movies I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. It’s not a laughable, stuff-your-mouth-with-popcorn film. It’s not a bittersweet chick flick to be shared at sleepovers. This is a film that takes an emotional knife, slips it between your ribs, and twists.
The movie, directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, depicts the true story of the Belon family — Henry, Maria and their three children Lucas, Simon and Thomas. During a Christmas vacation in Thailand, the family stays at a paradise resort, enjoying luxury and time under the sun. But on the morning of Dec. 26, the shore is hit by the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the family is ripped apart.

Image used under fair use doctrine
Image used under fair use doctrine
At this point, the movie ceases being just a “movie”. Every scene becomes achingly real. I sat on the same Ragtag couch where I’ve watched multiple ludicrous comedies and completely forgot where I was.
I watched Lucas and Maria tumble through murky water, their bodies repeatedly knocked and slashed by fast-moving debris. I watched Henry shout for his children, his voice breaking and tears streaming down his face. I watched strange men who spoke different languages drag Maria — yes, drag — across broken sticks and weeds, while she screamed in agony. A loose fold of skin hung from her leg, bloodied and dirty.
And that’s not even the beginning. The Impossible puts you right there, in the middle of the disaster. You forget the characters are acting. You forget you’re in a theatre. You wander through medical clinics of moaning patients with blackened bruises, who vomit blood and pour sweat. You search the darkness with Henry, as he desperately tries to find his family. You wonder where you were when this event really happened, some eight years ago.
And yet The Impossible blesses the audience with hope. There is beautiful moment after beautiful moment throughout the film, simple acts of kindness, from Maria saving a baby boy to Lucas reuniting a father and his son. I can’t imagine someone leaving this film without having their heart touched.
Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts both give stunning performances as Henry and Maria, shedding all celebrity vanity for real tears, pale skin and buckets of fake blood. On that note, the cinematography and make-up is incredible. The tsunami wave is terrifying in its reality. The shattering glass and crumbling debris are lovely and terrible. The fake injuries are enough to make you sick to your stomach. In fact, I don’t recommend eating while you watch this film.
But I’m not trying to discourage viewers. No, The Impossible is not easy to watch. No, it’s not a good date movie or even a good family movie. But it’s a good teacher. It reminds the audience what’s important, what’s real.
In a film industry filled with sex jokes and shoot-em-ups, we need a taste of The Impossible.

By Lauren Puckett