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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The film is a story of a family overcoming a personal tragedy and resulting trauma through compassion, courage, and healing.
Positive Role Models
Cam steps in to care for his wife and three sons after her disabling accident, supporting her emotionally as well as physically. He demonstrates patience and compassion. The young sons make an effort to help more as well, though they're also grappling with grief and fear, and the older son blames himself for what happened. Friends and family members sometimes don't know how to behave around Sam. She recoils into her grief, anger, and pain at first, eventually finding the inner strength to face those feelings and envision a new future.
Violence & Scariness
When a woman falls over the side of a building, viewers hear her scream and see her body on the concrete below with a pool of blood around her head. Later she's shown being put in an ambulance, groaning in pain. She's then confined to a wheelchair and occasionally struggles to pull herself out of bed or off the floor. When she gets angry, she breaks things in the house. When the kids eat bad oysters, they vomit all over the bathroom, and the dad slips in it. Two birds attack the family's pet bird and it disappears. The boys skateboard on the house's roof and jump off it onto a trampoline.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
As Cam helps Sam bathe and dress, she's shown in her underwear and naked from the waist up from behind. Talk of a catheter. A married couple kisses.
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"S--t," "poo," "farts," "spew," "spastic," "jeez."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Characters drink wine and talk about giving up drinking temporarily. Sam accuses her mom of being "drunk and emotional" at a lunch.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Penguin Bloom is an emotional drama based on the true story of Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) and her family's journey toward healing after she has a debilitating accident. Helping them in the process is an abandoned magpie they adopt and care for. The accident is shown through a series of flashbacks and involves Sam falling off a balcony, screaming, and landing on a concrete patio below, where a pool of blood forms around her head. She's rushed away in an ambulance, and viewers hear her groaning. She's later confined to a wheelchair, depressed; she occasionally acts out, breaking things in the house and reacting angrily to friends and family. The drama, and the effect it has on her husband and three young boys, is emotionally taxing, but characters also demonstrate courage and compassion. Language includes "s--t," "poo," "farts," "spew," "spastic," and "jeez." As Sam's husband helps her bathe and dress, she's shown in her underwear and naked from the waist up from behind. Characters drink wine and talk about giving up drinking temporarily. Sam accuses her mom of being "drunk and emotional" at a lunch. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This true story can be intense at times, but it has a lot of heart. There are moments in Penguin Bloom where you feel time is standing still or moving especially slowly. It's used as an intentional effect, like when Sam drops into the sea in slow motion or seems to step outside her own body to remember her debilitating fall. But that stillness also comes across in scenes where we watch from Sam's perspective as regular life happens all around her, as if nothing had changed. The sun continues to rise and fall while she sits still. For her, everything has changed; she's stuck, and the visual imagery of the film communicates that, including in the symbolism of the jars of honey the family produces. The cinematography is quite beautiful and used as a powerful tool in conveying the Blooms' story, but so is Watts' quiet and determined performance as Sam.
The parallels between Sam's journey towards recovery and the abandoned magpie's can feel a little heavy-handed at times, if not predictable. "She doesn't want to be stuck inside, does she?" they ask. But the connection is also sweet: When Sam cares for Penguin, she smiles for the first time. Among all the things she feels she's lost, mothering may be the hardest. The film is narrated by the oldest of her three boys, Noah, tenderly portrayed by Griffin Murray-Johnston. He blames himself for the fall, and we also see the accident, the trauma, and the recovery from his perspective. When he and his brothers skateboard on the roof of their house or jump off the roof onto the trampoline below, they're free and nimble and young, but you can't help but sense the tension of another potential accident waiting to happen. The fact that it doesn't feels doubly liberating.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.