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Soul Surfer (2011)
Reviewed on 2011 August 15
This is, from what I understand, pretty close to the true story of the real Bethany Hamilton, the amazingly strong young woman who lost an arm to a shark. It didn’t destroy her spirit or her ability to surf.
Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) was pretty much “born with salt water” in her veins, loving the beaches of her native Hawaii and spending every waking moment she can in the water. She and her best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) are talented surfers, with the potential to win the Nationals, and thus lots of endorsements and good living doing what they love. Her parents Cheri and Tom (Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid) support her and are the backbone of their close-knit family.
Bethany has a church trip to Mexico with her youth group, which she forsakes to practice for the Nationals. One day the unthinkable happens: a shark attacks her and she loses her arm. The rest of the movie is how she conquers this to regain her love of life, surfing, and her faith.
There were a few things that bugged me about this movie, but the emphasis on the Hamilton family’s Christianity itself wasn’t one of them. It’s a part of who they are, and it showed how Bethany used her faith to cope, much like Tina Turner’s Buddhism strengthened her in What’s Love Got to do With It. Had that been excluded, it wouldn’t have been her story. What left the sour taste in my mouth was the subtle implication that had she gone to Mexico like she agreed, she’d have kept her arm; I happen to be a Christian, and this needled me somewhat. The other quibble was how Disney-ish it felt, not in its message but in its handling. In its defense the acting was good, with the family feeling as warm and loving as the real Hamiltons seem when they’re depicted over the end credits. Several people also unfairly remarked that the Bethany character adapted too quickly to her loss. When you see the clips of the real Bethany, you realize that this kid pretty much bounced back right away.
Two chocolate morsels, for the real Bethany.