The Most Overlooked Film Of 2012 – The Impossible


One of the great mysteries of the 2012 movie season is why The Impossible, a true story about the Belon family from Spain all of whom survived the December 26th, 2004 Tsunami that struck off the coast of Indonesia killing over 250,000 people from sixteen countries, was overlooked by American audiences.

To call The Impossible a disaster film is to  associate it with dazzling special effects and digital imagery to create death and destruction on a catastrophic level, however this movie uses minimal special effects, no green screen or digital water.  Its a character driven journey with incredible authenticity as it focuses a lens on the mother – son relationship.

The true story is told by Maria Belon, a physician who was on hiatus and caring for her husband Henry and their three young sons, Lucas who is 12, Tomas 7, and Simon 5, on vacation in Thailand for the Xmas holiday when the Tsunami hits. Maria and Lucas are swept in one direction and find each other. Her husband Henry and their two young sons are presumed dead.

In order to survive, Maria and Lucas must rely on each other in an unfamiliar way that touches a common nerve as Lucas sees his mother seriously injured and in great pain bleeding from her leg as her breast is exposed just at the age when he is entering puberty. He reacts by turning away, unable to see his mother in so much pain, “I can’t see you this way Mum, I just can’t.” When she spits up blood he yells, “stop it, stop it,” as if she were intentionally doing this to embarrass him. Maria, painfully aware and compassionate to his reaction to her responds, “Walk in front of me.”
04impossible1.rThis is a coming of age saga for Lucas who is beautifully portrayed by newcomer Tom Holland, a talented up and coming British actor who has no prior film experience. Naomi Watts gives one of her best performances in her twenty year career that ranks along side Mulholland Drive and 21 Grams. As Maria she gives profound depth to motherhood and a fierce will to survive with dignity for the sake of her son. Ewan McGregor as the father struggles with keeping his two younger sons with him or sending them away as he searches for Maria and Lucas. He chooses the latter but admits, “It was the most difficult decision I have ever had to make.” It reminded me of Sophie’s Choice.

The film was directed by Juan Antonio Bayona , his second picture, and screenplay by  Sergio G. Sanchez with the help of the Belon family and beautifully scored by Fernando Velazquez. It was well received by the Toronto Film Festival and given high praise by critics. So, why was this film overlooked by The Golden Globe Awards, The SAG Awards, BAFTA and The Oscars. In fact the only nomination it was given by The Oscars was for Naomi Watts for Best Performance by a Lead Actress.

The box office receipts show that in the United States, the film was hardly seen. It has been far more successful in Mexico, Brazil, Europe and Asia where it is very popular. Perhaps Hurricane Sandy effected people so much, that they didn’t want to see anything that resembled a disaster film. Yet the story is so compelling and the performances so good it should be seen, hopefully, before Oscar voting ends. Naomi Watts gives a moving performance. It would be nice to see her win a well deserved Oscar, but the movie needs to be seen because in all its desolation, its a true story about this global event told through the eyes of one family and how it changed all them. It’s a beautiful film.