The Impossible

  • Review Date: December 20, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 114 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Very intense story of family's survival against the odds.
  • Review Date: December 20, 2012
  • Rated: PG-13
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012
  • Running Time: 114 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Ultimately, The Impossible is a story of a mother and son's devotion to each other after the unthinkable has happened. The movie reinforces the random way that natural disasters cause destruction. There's no reason some people survive and others perish; it's a terrible tragedy with unthinkable consequences. But throughout the calamity, people show each other extraordinary kindness and generosity, sending the message that even in times of despair, there are moments of hope and small miracles to celebrate.

Positive role models

Maria and Lucas do everything they can to help each other survive. There are several times when Lucas must act like the parent and take care of his mother. He even has to literally carry and hoist her up a tree. Although it's a burden, Maria convinces Lucas to save a little toddler boy they find.


The devastation the tsunami causes is catastrophic. People are swept away in a wall of water, drowned or impaled or crushed by debris. Maria is seriously injured as her body makes impact in the rush of water. At one point, she's incredibly bloody and has a large flap of skin hanging off of her leg. People taken to the hospital are grieving the loss of their loved ones. Kids and teens will especially feel for Lucas, who at one point believes his mother is dead. Both Maria and Henry think the other has died. A tween yells at his mother a few times.


Adults at the resort kiss and dance and embrace. There's nudity, but in a completely asexual way. The mom, who was wearing a bathing suit when the tsunami struck, doesn't realize her breast is exposed until her son mentions it.


Strong language includes a tween swearing. Words include "hell" and "goddamn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Grown-ups drink at the hotel bar and a dinner party.

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

Kids say

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.

Families can talk 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 21, 2012
DVD release date:April 23, 2013
Cast:Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts, Tom Holland
Director:Juan Antonio Bayona
Studio:Summit Entertainment
Run time:114 minutes
MPAA rating:PG-13
MPAA explanation:intense realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images and brief nudity

This review of The Impossible was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Parent of a 17 and 17 year old Written byfancythat January 25, 2013

So Worth Seeing

I was a bit hesitant to see this movie because I was afraid it would be too disturbing and hard to cope with the subject matter. I loved the resiliency of the family and other characters. One of the messages I appreciated is that no matter what nationality we are, we all have the same loyalty to loved ones and compassion for others.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Parent Written bynimswa January 10, 2013


I didn't expect to like this movie at all, but was surprised to find that it was excellent. The acting was superb; Naomi Watts deserves a nomination.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much consumerism
Adult Written byatkinsww January 19, 2013

Very good but very difficult movie.

This is a very difficult movie to watch. Adults need to decide for themselves if they want to see so much pain and misery, but it is not for kids. The death, the destruction, and there is non-sexual nudity.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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