The True Story of The Impossible
One family’s struggle for survival and redemption in the midst of devastation
On December 26, 2004, a tsunami struck the coast of Thailand, killing hundreds of thousands. The Impossible tells the tale of a family who survived the disaster. Based on the true story of María Belón and her husband Enrique, the film stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts as the anglicised Henry and Maria Bennett, respectively. Otherthan the anglicisation of the main characters, the film allegedly remains remarkably true to actual events.
On vacation in Thailand with their three young sons when the tsunami hits, the couple is torn apart by the wave—Maria with their eldest son Lucas, and Henry with their two youngest, Thomas and Simon. Maria and Lucas make their way to safety, encountering devastation along their path, and fearing the worst for their unseen loved ones. While mother and son seek refuge at the nearest hospital, Henry sets out to find them. Along the way he encounters many people in similar predicaments, each with their own tragic stories of love, loss and sorrow, but he never gives up hope.
Helmed by Spanish director J.A. Bayona, previously known for his horror film El orfanato, The Impossible is a story of survival, struggle and redemption, backed by powerful performances. Naomi Watts gives an Oscar-nominated performance which is well-deserved, and newcomer Tom Holland delivers a worthy performance as Lucas. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the familiar face of Geraldine Chaplin (Charlie’s daughter) in a brief but unforgettable appearance.
On a modest budget of $45 million, the filmmakers did an excellent job of recreating a tsunami, though a few fleeting moments were quite clearly CGI-crafted (But hey, what are they gonna do, make a real tsunami?). The sense of realism coupled with the remarkable performances and the powerful story—a true one, no less—all made this film hit home for me. This is one of those rare breed of films that sticks with you for years to come.