Review | A magpie makes a welcome friend in ‘Penguin Bloom’

Penguin Bloom | Dir: Glendyn Ivin | ★ ★ ★ ★ 

In 2013, Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts), her husband Cameron (The Walking Dead’s Andrew Lincoln) had a family holiday Thailand, even though the kids wanted to go to Disneyland. While admiring the views from the rooftop of their accommodation, a rotten railing gives way and Sam falls, breaking her vertebrae in two places.

Returning to their home on Sydney’s northern beaches, Sam is paralyzed from the chest down, in a load of pain and dreadfully depressed that she is unable to enjoy her outdoor lifestyle, particularly surfing. A wall of photographs celebrating their previous outdoor activities taunts her every day.

It also hits home that Sam is unable to care for her kids or herself, and life doesn’t seem worthwhile living, no matter how hard her faithful husband and well-meaning friends try. “It’s like Mum was stolen from us” says her oldest son Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnson) who narrates the beginning of the story.

The story is based on actual events and Sam’s photographer husband Cameron documented her recovery in a recently published book. It was the arrival of a wounded baby magpie that the kids named Penguin that would be a turning point for Sam. The film is named after the absolute star of the show – the magpie. Though Watts gets best supporting actor and Jacki Weaver as Sam’s mother manages to steal every scene she is in.

Adding authenticity to the film, it is shot in the Bloom’s actual house that has magnificent ocean views and, incredibly, a rooftop where the kids skylark and jump off onto a trampoline.

Sam admits that there is not a day that she doesn’t regret the accident that changed her life forever, but it is an incredible story of overcoming the obstacles and rebuilding a shattered life – with the help of a squawking ball of fluff and lots of people. Fortunately there is quite a lot of humour from Sam’s semi-feral kids mixed with the pathos of her struggle.

Lezly Herbert

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