"Penguin Bloom" is adapted from the book of the same name, and tells the true story of Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts), a wife and mother of three who, after a tragic accident, is left without the use of both of her legs. It's not very hard-hitting, but more of an inspirational, family-friendly drama that glides along on the strength of its two leads.
Anybody who has been handicapped or knows someone who has knows the psychological trauma that it causes, let alone the physical. And not just to the inflicted, but to those around that person as well. Sam was an athlete and an outdoorsy type, and never being able to walk again has literally transformed her into a new person altogether. Her loving husband Cameron Bloom (Andrew Lincoln) is trying to lift her spirits and hold his family together, but he feels as helpless as Sam feels useless. When the children find a baby magpie, nurse it back to health and adopt it as their pet, the new member of the family - named "Penguin" - lifts their spirits and teaches them valuable lessons about the wonders of life.
If that last sentence sounded a bit sappy, rest assured that "Penguin Bloom" mostly avoids sugar-coating its tough central topics, even if some of its themes are a bit on-the-nose (or on-the-beak?). Little Penguin doesn't have much use of some of his limbs, for example, in the same way that Sam doesn't. As we see Sam warming up to her new feathered friend, we can rightly predict where the film is headed. And a few scenes involving Sam's overbearing mother Jan (Jacki Weaver) seem the closest that border on melodrama.
The best moments in the film come when the great Andrew Lincoln and Naomi Watts share the screen. They have intimate moments that reveal depth between the characters, depth that isn't necessarily present on the page but in which the actors bring to the forefront. She is determined that the person he fell in love with doesn't exist anymore, and he desperately will not let her destroy the parts of her that remain.
And if solid acting isn't your thing, there's a cute bird doing cute things.
"Penguin Bloom" doesn't do anything revolutionary, but it's a nice drama about a serious topic, presented in a digestible if slightly watered-down way. If you were thinking this one might be for the birds, think again.
Run Time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Andrew Lincoln, Jacki Weaver, Rachel House.
Based on the book by Cameron Bloom.
Directed by Glendyn Ivin ("Last Ride").
"Penguin Bloom" is available on Netflix on Wednesday, January 27th, 2021.
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