Emotional and moving the true story of Bethany Hamilton called Soul Surfer makes its way into movie theaters across the nation. Without a doubt the best film about recovery from a tragedy I’ve seen in decade. If there is one film you see this year, make it be Soul Surfer, you will be truly inspired.
In December of 2004 a tsunami pounded the coastal region of Thailand causing much death and massive destruction. In the middle of the crisis a group of volunteers from Hawaii went to help the survivors. Included in the group is Bethany Hamilton, a one armed 14-year-old youngster who believes in herself and a chance to help others.
Flash back a year and two months earlier where in a freak accident Bethany is attacked by a shark while practicing for a surfing tournament off the coast of Hawaii. The bite takes off her left arm and nearly kills her. With the help of her surfing companions she gets rushed to the hospital where doctors save her life.
Being a surfer with plans on becoming a professional one-day, you would think that this terrible act of nature would be a career ender. Not many have survived such a tragedy and been able to pull themselves up and get back on the job. A similar Hollywood movie last year called 127 Hours received a lot of acclaim when through perseverance a young rock climber Aron Ralston had to remove his own arm to save his life. That man went on to climb many mountains including Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. It’s this kind of inspiration that I felt from the Bethany Hamilton story in the movie Soul Surfer.
In Bethany’s story we find not only inspiration, but also an abiding faith in a divine reason for the tragic attack. This faith, and witnessing how others such as the people in Thailand have the desire to recover from tragedy, compelled her to regain her strength and become a world-class surfing champion.
The acting in Soul Surfer by AnnaSophia Robb shines as the young girl who has to raise herself up, shrug off pity and move on to her goal. Being able to project the emotional trauma, pain and suffering, Robb makes the story work. Her ability to express the disappointment from the results of the attack, accept the fact that she must move on and then rise above the tragedy to become a champion is impressive.
A stellar support cast that includes Denis Quaid as Tom Hamilton, Helen Hunt as Cheri Hamilton and Lorraine Nicholson as Alana Blanchard provide emotional performances as parents and friend. Never giving up on Bethany, Tom supports her belief that she can still become a professional surfer in spite of her loss of limb. And, Alana never turns away from her friend, encouraging her to work hard at conditioning herself, getting up on the board and becoming a champion.
As a closing point, the making of the movie with the use of advanced filming techniques provides the realism that is necessary for a winning project such as this. It’s amazing how through the use of green screen applications Robb is able to go though all the motions armless.
Stay after the credits start to roll to see real footage of Bethany in action on a surfboard, many of her videos of growing up and her trip to Thailand.
Soul Surfer is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.
FINAL ANALYSIS: See this movie and feel the inspiration. (A)