The story of a wounded magpie and an Aussie mother who loses all functionality of her legs probably sounds like something you really do not want to sit down and spend an hour and thirty minutes watching. Though the project’s premise might sound miserable, the true story that inspires the production of “Penguin Bloom” is rather captivating and worth putting time towards.
However, you wouldn’t have any idea of its actual appeal based on a viewing of Netflix’s film adaptation of the novel.
“Penguin Bloom” features both “The Walking Dead” actor Andrew Lincoln and the gifted Naomi Watts who commands a string of films in her repertoire. The two play parents to a trio of young boys.
After a trip to Thailand leads to a disastrous accident, Watts’ character, Sam Bloom is left wheelchair-bound. This leads to an understandable struggle with feelings of uselessness as Sam is no longer able to surf, swim, walk or be the mother she once was.
Sam becomes reclusive and closed-off to both friends and family until her son Noah brings home a wounded magpie named Penguin. Sam dislikes the bird initially but the two grow to be mutually dependent on one another.
This film is as you would expect it to be: Sam is angry she can no longer function the same, she breaks a few items in frustration, she yells at her husband and children a little, and then she realizes how important family actually is to her recovery.
The family-oriented piece is admirable. The atmosphere is cozy, believable and even shot in the home of the real-life Bloom family.
The biggest thing that truly disappoints during the film is the constant scattered feeling throughout. The project seems to pursue so many different directions without actually reaching an end destination. It’s evident that there is so much to the origin story that deserves unpacking, but so little time to do so. It leaves the film feeling rushed and confused in regards to what ground it was meant to cover.
The project might just be a bit more obsessed with offering more nonsensical scenes of metaphorical beauty instead of focusing on the actual prospering of Sam.
We see a bit of this desired growth through Sam’s journey with kayaking as she settles into a greater sense of normalcy. The kayaking instructor, Gaye, is played by Rachel House and she offers such a lovable character to the cast that she can’t go without being mentioned. As is, we hardly see much focus on Gaye, despite her being a central inspiration to Sam’s recovery.
It seems many of the most crucial parts of the plot end up receiving limited screen time while shots of just the three sons playing on skateboards seem to garner more attention from director Glendyn Ivin.
At some point “Penguin Bloom” should’ve considered either adding extra run time to the production or cutting out the time-wasting filler scenes. The concept of the story seems so simple to convey, yet the audience is inevitably left confused at how disjointed so many of the plot points feel.