Film Review – Penguin Bloom

Penguin Bloom (M)

Directed by: Glendyn Ivin

Starring: Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln, Rachel House

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review by: Julian Wright

An unlikely relationship between human and wild bird make for a family friendly tear jerker in Penguin Bloom.

After a holiday accident leaves her paralysed from the chest down, outdoorsy and adventurous nurse Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) struggles to adjust to a life confined to a wheelchair.

Now in a state of depression, Sam becomes emotionally distant from her family, staring at photos of herself surfing and the view from her house of the hills and lighthouse she used to hike to.

Her husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln) struggles to run the household with their three young rambunctious sons including oldest Noah (Griffin-Murray Johnson), who feels responsible for his mother’s accident.

Just when things could not be any more difficult for the family, they take in an injured Magpie and name him Penguin that becomes part of the family and gives Sam a sense of hope in her new life.

Of course, the glaringly obvious parallels (bird with wings that can’t fly and woman with legs who can’t walk) cannot be completely avoided, however Penguin Bloom manages to keep them to a merciful minimum as it explores this unusual relationship, which is based on a true story.

Director Glendyn Ivin’s realisation of the story remains focused on character and performance which is an important step in making sure this doesn’t slide wildly into sentimental mush.

There are some powerful scenes impeccably performed that explore loss, grief, guilt and hopelessness that balance the cutesy shots of a flightless bird hopping around a domestic environment getting into mischief. It is the equivalent of cutting to a cute dog to make the audience go “nawww”.

Watts does most the of the heavy lifting in the acting department (and she is great), her character going through more emotional turmoil than everyone around her, but she is surrounded by a really good supporting cast. Jacki Weaver and Rachel House provide plenty of warmth just by being there, albeit it in underwritten supporting roles.

While the squawk of the Magpie is nowhere near as pleasing to the ears as its hijinks are to the eyes, Penguin is a lovely new addition to the memorable movie animal up there with Lassie and Babe.

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