Penguin Bloom Review TIFF 2020

The Plot

Inspired by a true story and a bestselling book, Penguin Bloom follows the poignant journey of a family dealing with the difficult aftermath of a traumatic event whose lives are unexpectedly transformed by adopting an abandoned baby magpie.

The Good

Penguin Bloom is a genuinely poignant look at a families struggle to deal with and overcome the new challenges and emotional burdens of living with life changing disability.

Naomi Watts gives a characteristically unflinching performance as a wife and mother redefining her sense of self after an accident leads leaves her paralysed from the chest down. The talented two time best actress Oscar nominee runs the full gambit of emotions moving gradually from a state of angry despair towards a cathartic and almost euphoric new happiness. Though the physical limitations she portrays are understated on camera, it’s the credibility of her emotional portrayal that if far more impactful.

Alongside Watts The Walking Dead star Andrew Lincoln effectively plays a devoted husband and father. His subtle Australian accent work is particularly flawless to the point of being entirely unnoticeable and his flashes of raw emotion are heartfelt.  The young actors playing their three sons are also all equally well chosen and natural in their performances, showing none of the distracting stage school affections all too common in child actors.  Together the core cast form a truly plausible family unit.

A brilliant supporting cast lead by the talented familiar faces of Jackie Weaver and Rachel House flesh out the world beyond the immediate Bloom family with warmth and humour. These are particularly invaluable contributions that help to offset some of the film’s bleaker moments and more sombre early tone.

The titular magpie hero named ‘Penguin Bloom’ is obviously a scene stealing star for the production. The well trained authentic aviary hero holds audience’s attention and populates the screen with an endless array of cute moments likely to impact and inspire audiences just as much as they did for the real family.

The Bad

The film requires a degree of patience as the earliest stages are both slow moving and uncomfortably anguished. This is a necessary jumping off point for a tale which is ultimately uplifting and inspiring but nevertheless it challenges audiences to push past that initial discomfort.

This film may also prove particularly challenging for anyone whose life has been similarly effected by life changing medical circumstance. However whilst that might trigger a deeper vein of emotions it will also make such audience members even more appreciative about seeing this journey authentically captured on screen.

The Ugly Truth

Penguin Bloom challenges audiences and is a deeply emotional exploration of an incredibly sensitive subject matter. It remains both authentically upsetting and ultimately inspiring and cathartic. It’s a powerful portrait of family love and true healing.

Review by Russell Nelson

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