Naomi Watts is an actress that will never disappoint. From her acclaimed Oscar-nominated turn in 21 Grams, to recent films such as Fair Game, Mother and Child, Eastern Promises and The International, Watts is one of the best actresses out there. She particularly gained notices back in 2001 for David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (a film, I’m ashamed to admit, I have to yet to sit down and watch). Overall, there’s always a bit of prestige attached to a film when Watts is featured in it. After a nine-year absence from Oscar’s radar, she’s finally back to the ballot this year—this time for her work in director Juan Antonio Bayona’s powerful true-story drama The Impossible.
In The Impossible, Watts plays Maria Bennett, wife to Henry (Ewan McGregor) and mother to three young sons. The film takes place in 2004 and the Bennett family is spending their holidays in Thailand. In the opening of the film, we see the Bennetts enjoying their holiday and their family time together – but what would soon result would change their lives (and the lives of thousands of others) forever. A merciless tsunami crashes through the holiday resort the Bennetts are staying at and devastates everyone and everything in its path. Bayona’s portrayal of the tsunami’s awesome force and brutality is so horrifyingly real. The whole sequence of Mother Nature’s catastrophic events will absolutely take your breath away and tug at every ounce of humanity in your being.
Bayona does not tiptoe around or sugarcoat the physical toll the tsunami had on those who struggled to survive through it. Watts’ portrayal here as she is battered through the tsunami is heartbreaking—not only as she struggles to stay alive but also as she harrowingly fights through it all to protect her son, Lucas—the one son she was able to reunite with when the disaster first sweeps through. Young actor Tom Holland portrays Lucas and he is excellent here and ends up carrying a great deal of the film with Watts. As a young boy who, in an instant, has to mature far beyond his years as a result of the tsunami’s devastation, it’s unfortunate that Holland didn’t get a notice from the Academy as well.
Searing and unforgettable, The Impossible tells one of the most remarkable true stories of human tragedy and hope as a result of Mother Nature’s forces. With strong performances by Holland and a very deservedly Oscar-nominated Watts (McGregor’s performance is also very worthy of mentioning), The Impossible was one of the finest films of 2012. I’m not certain Watts will walk away with the Oscar come February 24 (odds are more in favor of Jennifer Lawrence or Jessica Chastain), but her nomination was well earned and it would only be a matter of time before the Academy awards another nod (and hopefully an eventual win) her way.
4 ½ out of 5 stars
About The Impossible:
A true-story account of a family caught, with tens of thousands of strangers, in the devastation of one of the worst natural catastrophes of recent time.
For more on The Impossible, visit the film’s official Web site.