PENGUIN BLOOM (NETFLIX) (2020)
SYNOPSIS: Based on the incredible true story, Penguin Bloom follows Sam Bloom (Academy Award® nominated Naomi Watts), a young mother whose world is turned upside down after a near-fatal accident leaves her unable to walk. As she learns to adapt to her new life, she finds hope in an unlikely hero, a small bird named Penguin.
Penguin Bloom is not a movie about a wondrous penguin nor an unauthorized biography of Orlando Bloom and his love life. It’s simply a fact-based, moving story about Samantha Bloom, an Australian para surfing and kayaking champion.
Married to a professional photographer, Cameron (Andrew Lincoln from The Walking Dead), Samantha Bloom (Naomi Watts) is an ordinary working mother to three bubbly sons. But the once active sports and beach lover became paralyzed from the waist down after she suffered a fall when a faulty railing gave way while vacationing in Thailand.
Sam returned to their home confined to a wheelchair, emotionally drained and frustrated in her inability to continue her daily chores and a life that she will never get back. Once a lovable presence in the household, she’s now depressed and detached from her love ones. Though her husband and sons tried to lift Sam’s spirits up, Sam continues to isolate herself until her eldest son, Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston) found a tiny, abandoned magpie in which he named as Penguin or Pen in short. While Noah is in school, Sam becomes the surrogate mother and companion to Pen and along the way, established a relationship that awakened the dying spirit in her.
Watts, an actress who is more than capable of performing a wide range of impressive emotions also produced the effort. Penguin Bloom is largely watchable because of Watts’ committed performance as the tortured Sam. There’s a couple of heartbreaking scenes but fortunately never reaches the level of weepy exaggerated soap-opera antics.
Andrew Lincoln on the other hand has it easy this time since there are no tricky zombie situations to diffuse while Australia’s favourite veteran actress Jackie Weaver puts in an assured performance as Sam’s over-protective mother. Newcomer Griffin Murray-Johnston gave a bravura performance as Noah, the son who lives in guilt and presumably blame himself for leading his mom to the balcony where she suffered the fall. There’s one singular powerful scene in the entire movie which has Sam confronting Noah that will probably have you weeping buckets of tears.
What about the supposedly eight magpies who played Pen? The magpie seen in the movie actually provides a sweet, sometimes whimsical performance complementing fully with Watt’s presence. Since a magpie sort of rejuvenates the life of the real Sam Bloom, one shouldn’t blame the filmmakers on the Disney-like treatment. At least the bird doesn’t talk or sing, it just hilariously requires the companionship of one of Noah’s soft toys.
Penguin Bloom is a harmless family movie. It doesn’t break the mould of a typical inspirational flick but as a movie that celebrates the true spirit of a once broken individual, it’s significant enough. On a side note, someone should advise Watts not to visit Thailand anytime soon. Remember The Impossible?
Review by Linus Tee