VOD film review: The Impossible
James R | On 07, Jul 2017
Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
Cast: Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Tom Holland
The average human cries 121 litres of tears in their lifetime. You’ll lose at least half of them watching The Impossible. You won’t cry once. You’ll cry six or seven times – enough to leak a large pool of salty fluid onto the floor around you. Or at least convince you to check there isn’t a gaping hole in your ceiling, which has made it rain on your face repeatedly for two hours. By the end of The Impossible, you’ll feel oddly uplifted but also very drained.
The beauty of The Impossible, though, isn’t the amount it makes you cry: it’s that is doesn’t manipulate you to do so. Every tear is earned thanks to Bayona’s thoughtful storytelling. The director of The Orphanage gave that horror story a sentimental, sorrowful depth that made its emotional pang as powerful as its shocks (see also: A Monster Calls). That same approach renders The Impossible’s account of the real life tsunami that devastated Thailand not so long ago a horrifying impact. The wave, when it comes, is as tragic as it is terrifying, depicted with immersive, brutal sound editing to match the scale of the visual effects.
In its wake, Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are believable as the parents trying to bring together their family at all costs. What follows is a string of reunions and separations that tugs at your heartstrings at every stage, but while Watts’ bloody stumps and uncomfortable wincing are painful to watch, it’s the smaller touches, rather than the graphic injuries, that deliver the biggest blows; the decision to present most of it from their son Lucas’ perspective sees Tom Holland’s reactions to events foregrounded while people die in the background – and Holland carries that burden with the sincerity that has seen his star shoot up into Hollywood Spider-Man territory.
Combined with McGregor’s understated determination, which disappears in one crumpled mess of a phone call – the actor has rarely been better – The Impossible manages the impossible: where it could be manipulative, it feels honest; where it could be in poor taste, it feels respectful; and where it could be saccharine, it feels raw. Held together by Fernando Velazquez’s rousing score, which has all the beauty and weight of Ennio Morricone, this is a gruelling, harrowing, incredibly moving experience.