Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Impossible

The 2004 Christmas time tsunami that struck the coast of Thailand without warning is realistically recreated in the film The Impossible out on DVD. It stars Naomi Watts who had some Academy Award interest for her role as a mother caught up in trying to survive the tsunami's devastation. Ewen McGregor plays her husband.  They are British parents of three boys who are on vacation at the Orchid Resort. The story is based on a real Spanish family who experienced the full trauma of the tsunami and survived. Over 200,000 people did not. Over 1,000 children were orphaned. Although this family was separated for a time they were able to find one another and receive the medical care they needed. The devastation of the tsunami was total. While the film zooms out to capture a sense of the widespread destruction and the chaos that ensued as so many people sought help, the story of the film is about the personal experience of this one family. Ms Watts spent weeks in a water tank made to simulate what it was like to be caught in the powerful force of a tsunami. Her character in the film sustains major injuries and nearly dies. It is clear to see how so many people never had a chance of surviving. Although the film shows how a few did. They did only through the help of others. One small boy was caught in a debris pile and was softly crying. No one was around until mother and son in the film came close enough to hear his voice. Mom wanted to find where the crying was coming from. Her 16 year old son who knew how badly his mother was hurt just wanted to find help. She prevailed and they found the boy who surely would have died had they not discovered and kept him with them until they found a hospital. Later on he was reunited with his own father. The emotional center of the film are a number of these vignettes which show how small caring acts for one another were actually matters of life and death. While there were a few people who couldn't be bothered to extend themselves for someone else in need, most did. Maybe it was a villager who drove some survivors to the nearest hospital, or the local doctors who worked tirelessly to help the injured, or the people who shared their cell phones when their batteries were nearly depleted and there was no way to recharge them, or an outstretched hand to another stranger who was overcome with emotion, or someone of another nationality joining in a search for the lost family members he had never met. In some ways it was like scenes from the bombing at the Boston Marathon where many people ran into the blast zone so they could help.

At times the camera would pan the sky as if to ask if there were any answers to the tragedy unfolding below to be found there. Other times, the camera panned an ocean, calm and serene now, as if to suggest you never know when it will turn destructive again. The uncertainty of life. What is more sure is a steely will to live and a genuine concern for others, too. Even at the extremes, especially at the extremes, life is precious, too precious not to share.

The film does not delve into the question of Why? But, the title is a reference to it. The title screen, The Impossible, comes at the end reflecting that the hardest part of the tragedy was still to come. How to come to terms with the "survivor guilt". Why, me? Why did I survive when so many did not? Is the film saying it is an impossible question to answer or is it an impossible situation to deal with? Perhaps both. Christians are often quick to label surviving a tragedy where many others died a miracle. But, what about the others whose miracle did not come that day. Why not? We cannot so glibly assign motives to God. We don't know. One wise pastor said once we can't confuse God with Life. Life is not random but sometimes it looks that way. Maybe the best we can do is to live our stories within God's and trust the outcome to him.