A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Impossible is an intense family drama set against the 2004 Asian tsunami. Because of the subject matter, there are many upsetting sequences, particularly in the first half hour after the tsunami hits. People are shown swept away and presumably killed by the rushing wall of water, and a mother is so severely injured that a part of her skin is no longer attached to her body. Parents, please know that you, too, will be affected by the horrors depicted in the film -- none greater than when a boy believes he's all that's left of his immediate family.
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Based on the true story of a Spanish family that survived the 2004 Asian tsunami, THE IMPOSSIBLE follows Henry (Ewan McGregor) and Maria (Naomi Watts), a British couple who travels to a luxury resort in Thailand for a Christmas holiday. They have three kids: tween Lucas (Tom Holland) and two younger boys. On Dec. 26, 2004, as the family is playing poolside, the massive tsunami hits the area, sweeping thousands into the ocean. Maria survives the worst but is gravely injured. She finds her oldest, and together she and Lucas attempt to overcome each devastating moment.
Is it any good?
Movies about a massively destructive event, whether it's a war or 9/11, can be difficult to watch and even more difficult to make well. By focusing on one family, director Juan Antonio Bayona wisely distills the tsunami tragedy down to the myopic perspective of one distraught woman and her mature-beyond-his-years son. Watts and Holland's interactions beautifully capture the bond between mother and child.
Watts is terrific, and Holland is remarkable -- reminiscent of young Hunter McCracken in The Tree of Life. No longer a little boy but far from a man, Holland's Lucas is fiercely determined to survive and help his mother secure medical attention. Once they safely land at a Thai hospital, the story loses some of its immediacy, but then we find out what happened to the father and brothers thought lost. The Impossible isn't an easy viewing experience, but it reminds us all that even in times of despair, there are moments of hope and small miracles to celebrate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether The Impossible is a disaster movie or not. How does the depiction of the tsunami compare to other films about catastrophes? Critics have said the movie's ending takes away from its powerful beginning. Do you agree?
What feelings do you have while watching this movie? Is it OK to feel happy for the main characters amid so much devastation?
Are cinematic deaths resulting from disasters or accidents different than those due to war or other forms of violence?
The Impossible is based on a real family's true story. How accurate do you think it is? Why might filmmakers decide to change some details/facts? How could you find out more?
- In theaters: December 21, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2013
- Cast: Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland
- Director: Juan Antonio Bayona
- Studio: Summit Entertainment
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: History
- Run time: 114 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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