A busy Australian family are living in Tokyo and plan to spend their Christmas holidays in Thailand – they look forward to sharing a happy holiday season together. In Tokyo, husband and father, Henry (by Ewen McGregor) has an important job and his wife, Maria (performed by Naomi Watts) is an Australian doctor caring for her growing boys – Lucas (by Tom Holland), Thomas (by Samuel Joslin) and Simon (by Oaklee Pendergast). The family doesn’t get back to Australia as much as they want to, but Maria hopes to relocate there soon so she can re-join the medical profession. The family arrive at their Thai beach resort ready for a holiday and they all start to relax. Christmas Day passes with much happiness and the family begin to settle in to their leisure time. On Boxing Day, a strong earthquake off the coast of Sumatra causes the Earth’s crust to surge upward and displaces a massive body of water. Two hours later, a 30 metre tsunami hits coastal Thailand at 800km/hr. Along with all the other holidaymakers and residents, the family at the beach resort have no defence against this force of nature and it devastates the entire region. The casualties and destruction are cataclysmic and human survival becomes a matter of sheer instinct. This is the family’s story of their time and the effect the tsunami has on them and the surrounding area.
This is the true and extraordinary story of a Spanish family (written as Australian in the movie) who were involved in the devastation of the Boxing Day Tsunami that hit the entire Indian Ocean region in 2004. I had expected more of a “holiday from hell” lightweight drama, but this movie is much better than that. The effect of the incident on this family and the area is an eye-opener. The hopelessness and drama of the situation is presented very well on screen and I often found myself thinking “yes, this is such an impossible situation to be in”. In that respect, the movie is well named. Often shown through the eyes of each of the family members in their own way, the scenario is horrendous. As Maria, Naomi Watts is very good and in 2013 she was nominated for both an Academy Award (Oscar) and a Golden Globe for her work. Ewen McGregor’s performance is real and highly emotional, even jaw-dropping in places. He is very strong. As teenage son Lucas, Tom Holland is excellent – probably the shining light here. The smaller boys, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast) do very well too for such young children. Director, J.A. Bayona has really done a good job with this – he doesn’t sensationalise anything and although in one or two places the pacing is a little slow, overall it’s great. He includes special effects occasionally and very well, particularly when he depicts Maria’s experience. For the viewers, some may find this topical, others deeply emotional, and still others may see a gritty and “in your face” drama, but whichever way you experience it, it’s worth seeing. Well done.
Made in 2012. Directed by J.A. Bayona