Tuesday, May 07, 2013

"Soul Surfer", the true story of Bethany Hamilton, who gets back on the boards after losing her arm to a shark

The high-profile Christian film, “Soul Surfer” (2011, directed by Sean McNamara) had been preceded by the documentary “Walking on Water” (April 3, 2011 here).  In this “main course’, a teenage girl Bethany (Anna Sophia Robb),  growing up in Hawaii and planning to enter international wave surfing competitions, encounters a horrible accident when her whole left arm is bit off, in one bite, by a tiger shark. That scene is sudden (although anticipated with underwater shots looking up, as in the "Jaws" movies).  
You can wonder about “bad things happen to good people” – but when you enter an environment where wild animals live these live, you simply take a certain risk.
There are some foreshadowings.  Bethany has been invited to go to Mexico to work with underprivileged kids, but declines because she has to work on her competition. Her dad (Dennis Quaid) is about to have his own surgery when he learns that the accident has happened.
The film gives a brief “near death experience” sequence (from blood loss); it is not nearly as elaborate as those described in a couple of recent book reviews (my Books blog, March 30 and April 8, 2013).   
Bethany is fitted with an artificial limb prosthesis, but the amputation had occurred so high up that it is not easy to make it work when she returns to the water.  She has to face the idea that her own plans – that which made her who she thought she was – may have to change.
The family is wonderful, of course, especially the mother (Helen Hunt) and energetic older brother (Chris Brochu).
The film is not as preachy as some other films of this nature, and it lets the story follow its own logic.  Toward the end, Bethany gets involved with helping the victims of the 2004 tsunami (as in the film “The Impossible”, reviewed on my “cf” blog, Dec. 21, 2012).  Teaching a kid to surf, she says, teaches her that surfing isn’t the most important thing of the world.  (I’ve seen that theme in pitches for volunteerism with other sports coaching  -- Issues blog, April 8, 2013.) 
But she really does get back on the board.

The film would make me wonder why I was so physically reticent (I could use a stronger word) as a youngster. 

FX network  gave the film its first ever cable premier on May 7.  The original film was released by Sony TriStar and Film District. Note: FX is airing it twice May 7 (at 8 PM and 10:30 PM EDT).  There are many commercial breaks (I wish for this film they could have been put together upfront);  the actual run time is 106 minutes.  For high-def TV, FX is editing the screen to standard aspect, but showing the credits in the original 2.35:1.  I'd prefer they keep the full aspect throughout, the way a DVD does.  The photography is very sharp at all distances, definitely BluRay quality.  
The setting is Kauai, the rainiest of the islands.  (I’ve been to Oahu, Hawaii, and Maui, but not Kauai).
The official site is here.
I recall when this film came out in the spring of 2011.  It played at the AMC Courthouse in Arlington, before the renovations.  

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