While Glendlyn Ivin’s Penguin Bloom doesn’t quite stick the landing, this adaptation of Cameron Bloom’s story has a career-best performance from Naomi Watts that’s sure to catch the eyes of award season voters. My biggest concern with the film is that the narrative is too cut and dry, almost too simplistic for its own good. That being said, even with material which just touched the surface of Bloom’s trauma, I thought that Watts was terrific.
The film centers on a Vacation trip that Sam Bloom (Watts) took with her husband (played by Andrew Lincoln) and three children to Thailand. A trip up a set of stairs with her oldest sons leads to her leaning on the wrong railing, which snaps, sending Bloom to the concrete resulting in her becoming paralyzed. To me, the film should have been more about Sam and less about her family. The meat of this story is how Bloom adapts to her new normal.
The storyline involving the injured Magpie, which they named Penguin, although faithful, came cross slightly forced. During any number of the bird sequences, I found myself wondering more about Sam and how her sons were processing what had just occurred. This film told a complex story and demanded a narrative that delivers. Instead of focusing so much on how the Magpie (affectionately named Penguin) taught Sam how to cope with her life change, why not focus on her and the immediate family’s dynamics? Instead, we got a film with a single outstanding performance, and the rest is just so-so.