Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Runtime: 113 min.
Verdict: As a document of real events, it is passable. As a case of a left boob, it has my attention.
Genre: Drama, Action (?), Thriller (?)
There’s a thin line between representing historical events and depicting historical events, and while the former can be a catalyst for ideas and discussions, the cut-and-dried this-is-what-it-was-like nature of the latter is more liable to cause serious ethical issues. Especially when the filmmaker happens to be so sure of his genre-credentials and his showmanship so as to go ahead and try and impress us, which then kind of derails the entire enterprise. Mr. Bayona, whose The Orphanage is a fine horror film with the sort of haunted ending I tend to seek, throws close-ups on the people here (real and humanistic), and master establishing shots (spectacle) for the disaster to cause the exact kind of awkward combo that makes the “depiction” of history the slippery ground it is, and The Impossible some kind of a sequel to Zero Dark Thirty.
So yeah, The Impossible is mediocrity of the mildly offensive kind. Not that I’m offended, but I’m curious why Mr. Bayona so consciously makes an attempt to chart the tsunami of Dec 26th 2004 via the eyes of Caucasians. The locals are there but only to fill the fringes. Not that I would want to pretend to be sensitive either way, but just the nature of the intention would be some kind of interesting. Especially when disaster-meter Mr. Emmerich has updated his oeuvre to include a global annihilation in 2012.
What has grabbed my attention though is the strong undercurrent of the Oedipal that runs throughout the picture, and were it for me, it would have been called The Curious Case of the Left Boob. It is better to put forth bullet-pointed evidence lest somebody find me - the messenger - a little perversely inclined. Just like this innocent gentleman here.
· The film opens to Maria Bennett (Ms. Watts) sitting not close to her husband Henry (Mr. McGregor) so as to display a traditional picture of a family, but a seat apart. Their conversations are not archetypal lovey-dovey couple but archetypal caught-in-the-rigors of life a-little-distant husband-wife.
· She gets up and sits next to her eldest son Tom (Mr. Holland), and their interactions are considerably more personal. The camera felt a little tighter on the close-up too. The son happens to be a teenager.
· While Maria is dressing up for their evening on the island, we catch the briefest glimpse of her left boob. God knows why. Or maybe Freud knows.
· Before the big flood the husband and wife have another of their disconnected conversations. Especially about her career.
· After the big flood the mother and son are left together. A lot of melodrama causes their union amidst the flowing waters, and while they walking ashore, we once again catch a glimpse of her left boob. Through the son’s vantage point. Awkward. He turns his eyes away while she ties her cloth all the time looking at him. Connection there I tell you.
· They meet a little kid who their rescue. The mother is one wanting to rescue the kid, while the son is more intent on finding safer grounds. More on this thread later.
· They climb onto a tree, and as she sleeps, the son steals a little glance and the camera pans on to her…..guess…..covered left boob.
· The cutaway from the son searching for his mother in the hospital is juxtaposed with the father, who we see for the first time since the big flood. It is a proper case of replacement via editing.
· The father leaves his two sons in the hands of a friend so that he could try and find his eldest son Henry and wife. It is a gamble. And who discovers those two little kids? Henry.
· They all finally find each other in the end, and the mother is to be operated upon. While she is taken away for surgery, the father sits against the wall with the other two kids while the son is seated against the bed his mother was lying on. I expected them to all be together, all the kids under the umbrella of the father, especially after having shared such an ultra-melodramatic reunion. The power equation is not so neat and tidy, and it gets even foggier when the son gets up and lies down on that very bed in that very place his mother was there not so long before. Mr. Bayona causes overhead perpendicular shots that kind of unite both the mother on the surgical bed and the son on her mother’s bed. It is he who imagines/remembers/fantasizes/dreams about his mother in the big tsunami and the big wave hitting her.
· We’re in the end, on the flight to Singapore, and she’s on a bed. Before the flight attendants ask everyone to be seated, the husband and wife hug and kiss in a rather impersonal far-medium shot, and as he goes back to his seat on the left aisle, he nods at his son, sitting on the right aisle to share whatever he has to with his mother.
· The son walks up, and this is when we get a proper warm composition of the mother. She smiles upon looking at him. The warm closure we usually get the end of such disaster movies between loved ones that reinforce traditional familial dynamics (like for instance the glance shared between Laura Dern and Sam Neill at the end of Jurassic Park on the helicopter) is shared between the mother and the son. He talks about the kid they saved (who, it can be construed, was given a new life by them and is thus their kid) and she starts crying. That little life-form was theirs.
I’ve no idea what all of this amounts to. I might ask for the truth and Mr. Bayona might very well claim I can’t handle the truth. Or vice versa. The thing is, when I first saw the left boob I thought it was Henry Bennett’s possession. I am not sure of that anymore.