The Impossible

How soon after an event which has a profound negative effect on thousands of peoples lives is it appropriate to make a film about it? I have always felt that, having been fortunate enough to have been born in a part of the world which is largely free from natural dangers, without war on my doorstep I am not in any position to make a call on what that length of time should be. The reaction of people for whom that event was a reality will always be, in my opinion, the best barometer for such things, both in terms of time and content. The reactions to The Impossible from those who were there vary. There are those who lauded the films accurate depiction of the disaster, to those who felt that the main characters experience was too unlike their own. Some didnt want to see the film for fear it may awaken memories they would rather leave behind whilst others felt like it was giving people a chance to better understand what they went through. What they almost universally do it praise the detail of the film, what far fewer do is praise the story. It is as easy to argue that no film should be made which could profit from depicting events where many people lost their lives as it is to argue that film is unique in its ability to give context to events – to in some way make sense of them. Herein lies the problem with The Impossible. By following one family who against all odds survive, the film tells a heartwarming tale against a backdrop of disaster, but no disaster is heart warming, and because this isnt an imaginary event it does a disservice to those people for whom there was no happy ending. Because the title tells us the family will be re-united the end of the film it becomes simply a matter of waiting until their paths cross – some time is invested in the people around them, who ultimately we know will be less fortunate than them only for these characters to be discarded in favour of the search plot. It is telling that a reunion between a young boy and his father who share perhaps less than five minutes of screen time half way through the film caught me far more emotionally off guard than any moment shared by the main characters. There are other issues with the film, its skewed heavily towards depictions of white families, and I did find some of the acting slightly wooden. Ultimately the film does tell a true story, a heart warming and beautiful story, but I am not sure it was a story which would help us make sense of what happened to thousands of people on Christmas Day 2004 because its barely representative, in its own words it is ‘The Impossible’. Whilst searching for reactions to the film I came across many descriptions of peoples experiences on that and subsequent days, and far more than watching the film reading these very personal stories made me have far more respect for the people who wrote them, and a far better understanding of what they went through.


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