After Penguin Bloom, you may never hear of a rescue-magpie ever again. What is it about true stories that touches our very soul? Can an injured bird bring a paraplegic back from the very depths of depression? History vs. Hollywood confirms the accuracy of this nice Netflix film. Penguin Bloom will not be the best film you will see this year, but few will be more heartwarming. Plus, the viewer gets the added attraction of breathtaking views along Sydney’s northern coast. This one is worthy of 95 minutes of your time.
What’s it like to work with a bird? In Penguin Bloom, the actors perform with eight different magpies, one animatronic one, and some CGI. All I know about magpies is that they are noisy. Penguin Bloom is no different, but he also likes to snuggle. Rescued after falling from a tree as a chick, she clearly thinks she is a member of the family. Still, for all the talk about the magpie, this is no wildlife documentary. Sam Bloom is an active mother, an accomplished surfer. After her accident, she believes she is worthless. From that bottomless pit, Penguin Bloom takes us to her resurrection as a world class kayaker and a two-time adaptive World Surfing Champion. I give the movie 3.5 Gavels and it receives a 67% Rotten Tomatoes rating with a 6.8/10 IMDb score.
On vacation in Thailand, Sam Bloom leans against a rotten wooden railing and falls twenty feet to the concrete below. One year later, in a wheelchair, she is angry, feeling helpless and useless. She refuses to go out of the house; she won’t see anyone. Oldest son, Noah, finds an injured bird while playing on the beach near their home. Because she’s black and white, and waddles, he names her Penguin. Since the chick needs constant care, he asks his mom to care for Penguin while he’s at school. Sam is none too happy about the request, but soon becomes quite fond of the magpie, and the magpie of her. The mom who thinks she can no longer care for her children learns she can care for Penguin. The first step in recovery is made with a long way yet to go.
“Known for her portrayals of characters who endure loss or suffering,” Naomi Watts stays true to form as Sam Bloom. You just saw her in Boss Level, not her finest film. Andrew Lincoln plays her husband, Cameron Bloom. Most will remember him from eight years of Walking Dead, but I remember him from Mrs. TMJ’s all-time favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually. Sam’s mother, Jan, is acted by the ubiquitous Jacki Weaver (The Disaster Artist, Poms).
Cameron asks Sam, “what is it that you want?” “I want to walk my boys to school, to dress myself, and to have a day without pain.” Young Noah feels “like Mom was stolen from us.” Every member of the Bloom family feels the guilt. Penguin Bloom makes them, and the viewer, smile and laugh again.
“Penguin Bloom meanders a bit before coming in to land. The path there might be predictable, but there is still something beautiful when it really takes flight.” IndieWire
“Watts is such a chameleon of an actress, such a pro at slipping into a vast array of roles without drawing attention to the mechanics of her work, that we almost take for granted how damn good she is – and she delivers beautiful and resonant work as Sam.” Chicago Sun-Times
The real Bloom family is shown below. On seeing unexpected fireworks over the Sydney skyline, Sam advises the youngest, Oli, that “sometimes nice things just happen. Penguin Bloom is one of those things.