When I lost my dog a little over a year ago, my heart was shattered. He was the first thing I saw upon awakening and theist thins I saw before falling asleep. He knew when I was happy, sad and knew that just one look from that furry little face could change my day from horrible to fantastic almost immediately. Animals have the uncanny ability to heal us from ourselves in ways that are unexplainable yet completely acceptable.
Based on the book by Cameron Bloom and Bradley Trevor Greive, Samantha Bloom (Naomi Watts) married her high school sweetheart Cameron (Andrew Lincoln), had three kids and seemed to be living an idyllic life full of hope, happiness and health. in 2013, while on holiday in Thailand, Sam fell off a rooftop due to a rotted railing and broke her vertebrae in two places. Paralyzed from the chest down, Sam, a lifelong outdoorswoman, surfer, and traveler was unrecognizable to herself and spent months in a depression grappling with who she could be in the world for herself and her family.
A year later, her children find and bring home a wounded baby magpie affectionately named “Penguin.” Sam bonded with the household’s new member, beginning a process of emotional healing that surprised her husband and sons, her mother (Jacki Weaver), and herself.
The true stars of the film are Naomi Watts and ‘Penguin.‘ I have never in my life seen a bird emulate behavior characteristically only seen with cats and dogs. It was precious watching him drag stuffed animals across the floor, sleep in his little basket like a bed and cry almost like a child when hungry and sad. He was often times like a bad little kid needing constant attention, but the most interesting thing of all is to be a creature who had wings but couldn’t fly. He and Sam had way more in common than anyone could’ve ever imagined, as Sam was trying to find her wings in order to continue to soar and fly through life. As heartwarming, complex and grounded as Watt’s portrayal of Samantha Bloom is, I couldn’t help but wonder why this role wasn’t cast with a disability actor. Even thought I know the answer is that the likelihood of the film being produced without her may have been slim to none, it doesn’t negate the nagging feeling of yet again watching an able bodied actor play a paraplegic.
Directed by Glendyn Ivin, Penguin Bloom tells the amazing true story of renewal of self, family and life the minute a little bird flew into all their lives transforming the minds, souls and hearts forever.