By Elia Esparza
The Impossible is a disaster movie that marries the devastation of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami’s sickening intensity with raw survival emotions fueled by pure love of family. In short, the film is a harrowing and uplifting spectacle that will leave you breathless and grateful that there were survivors.
Spanish director Juan Antonio (J.A.) Bayona captures the real-life story of survivor Spanish doctor Maria Belon, her husband and three young sons. The heart of the story is about the Belon family vacationing in Thailand during the deadliest catastrophe in the country’s history and somehow managing, maneuvering the “impossible” under extraordinary circumstances. It is amazing that the Academy of Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) home of Oscar, completely snubbed Bayona and Oscar Faura for Cinematography . Bayona’s direction is flawless and The Impossible is one of the best disaster films in many a moon.
The screenplay, written by Sergio G. Sanchez dramatizes the events of the disaster with a button-downed simple story that Maria Belon first wrote. The tale starts on Christmas Eve with British-born businessman Henry Bennett (Ewan McGregor) and his doctor wife, Maria (Naomi Watts) arriving at a Thai beach resort with their three boys. There is typical family bickering, laughing and playing like any family right up to the point when disaster strikes. What follows is a courageous will to survive the disaster the devastation of realizing your family is nowhere to be found and the desperate search never giving up hope that all will be reunited. Watts was the only cast member to receive an Oscar Nomination in the Best Actress category.
But the film has not been without its critics. Social media posts has raised the fact that once again, an English-language film is made ignoring the fact that the main protagonists happen to be Latino, in this case from Spain. Currently there is an uproar over Ben Affleck casting himself in Argo for the role of Tony Mendez. But do Spanish people consider themselves Latino versus European? Also, the director is Latino… it is his film to cast as he wants. But does this not also hold true for Affleck? Maria Belon is from Spain and not America, does that make it OK for Hollywood to cast Latino roles with non-Latinos?
Maria Belon was supportive of the casting. In fact, Belon has since forged a special friendship with Australian actress Watts. In a Spanish TV interview, Belon told Watts how impressed she was with her handling of the role.
“I was there, and I know how it feels,” said the mother of three, while both their eyes filled up with tears. “How it feels is exactly how you portrayed it… that’s not acting, it’s so much more.” Watts managed to whisper “thank you” as she chocked back tears.
Clearing Customs blog brings up an excellent point: “Why must we tell non-western stories through the eyes of westerners? Surely there were stories about Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Indians, Thais, and others in Southeast Asia worth telling.”
On an appearance on The View, Maria Belon addressed this by saying the movie is about the people of Southeast Asia. She said that her family’s story is not more important than theirs, but it serves as a way to show what was happening to the tens of thousands of people around them.
“It needed to be told just as an excuse to tell everybody else’s stories. That’s the only reason why we wanted our story to be told is because nothing happened to us.” Still, the surviving people of this region have fade back into oblivion.
Still, no doubt, Watts and McGregor turn in one of their best performances.
As a Hollywood-Spanish movie, The Impossible is valiant, honest.
The Impossible is currently in theaters.
Directed by J.A. Bayona
Produced by Alvaro Augustin
Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Written by Sergo G. Sanchez
Story by Maria Belon
Cast Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Music by Fernando Velasquez
Cinematography Oscar Faura
Distributed by Warner Bros. (Spain)