There’s a reason why I enjoy films that don’t have the subjects who are directly involved with the story working behind the scenes. It’s a bit like if you have an ugly baby. In your household’s eyes, the baby is beautiful. To get a real no holds bar outside opinion may break your bubble. By directly involving the film from the person who is the subject of its tragedy (Sam Bloom) is perfectly okay. Still, the family’s attached strings have their clear biased attachment to the subject material, replicating an overly sentimental, fluff piece, aside from the climactic confessional by Naomi Watts, who plays Ms. Bloom, each moment has an appeal that is geared towards children and no one else beyond that intellectual range.
When falling off a rickety outdated fence, Sam Bloom is left crippled for life. She doesn’t deal with her grief well, where she’s an antisocial, upset vegetable. Her days are primarily spent sulking, wishing she could still walk. The appearance of a magpie bird brings in a sense of relief for Sam’s psychosis. Soon the family grows attached to the bird they aptly name Penguin. Why Penguin gives hope to Sam’s family, I couldn’t understand. It seemed like a cute McGuffin to me. In other words, they got their Baby Yoda.
The truth of the matter is that the bird did make a difference in Sam’s life. This film’s book is based on “Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family.” Penguin wasn’t just a cheap tool for melodrama. I wasn’t aware of the book, however. Without that knowledge, I wonder if anyone else will fall for the drama. Sure the usual Wal-Mart moms will, but what about most of the audience whose intelligence is supposed to be respected? Most of the population can see through corny emotional manipulation. When they do, they’ll possibly notice the film’s fundamental flaw of having nothing new or unique to say. I can give you the theme in a single sentence. Even when life seems hopeless, you can pick yourself up from the most unlikely places. There, I summed the movie up for you.
The movie starts with Sam’s son, Noah Bloom (Griffin Murray), talking over home video footage during Sam’s prime years. Then we see a broken barricade of some kind with the sound of metal clanging against a steel barrier. I thought, “How did that woman manage to break through metal?” Later it’s revealed it was exceedingly fragile, uninspected wood that Sam barely leaned against that caused her to fall. Good thing they clarified that little detail since the introduction to Sam’s injury was almost comedic. With a big CRRRUNCH sound and CLANG, Naomi Watts was in the frame then gone in the next cut to the same angle. I would have made this shot with my film 10-year-old film students when I was teaching them. Throughout the movie, the child’s narration is an easy route. Listen to the cute kid talk about his hurt mom. Who’s not going to love a cute kid? Me. Like most people, I am challenging to emote when being taken for an emotional fool.
I can’t say for sure if Ms. Bloom’s family was involved in this movie’s creative process. I can say that I was having flashbacks to films that were afraid to provide real insight or critique of their real-life counterparts, films like “Five Feet Apart” or any inspirational sports picture. The intentions are good. A little too good. We don’t see human beings’ portrayal with flaws, moments that would make us question our morality. We’re given cardboard cutouts of people who are more archetypes than man. A shallow bit of optimism that has all the best intentions, but not the third party to make a message burn bright. Nothing is felt, only told through the narrative conventions that would bore anyone tuning in. If one were to make a movie about my family’s struggles, I would want my family’s flaws to be as honest as possible. It’s only through that objective lens that we can find something more objectively truthful about ourselves. The only genuine relief I saw was Andrew Lincoln finally being off the set of “The Walking Dead.”