This emotional film is based on the true story of teenager Bethany Hamilton who lost an arm in a shark attack. Filmmakers create a meaningful, life-changing journey as a rising young lead actress and star-filled supporting cast provide a strong anchor the audience who ride this touching, real-life drama “wave”.
Filmed in Hawaii and directed and co-written by veteran television/filmmaker Sean McNamara, this film is based on Bethany’s book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board. Bethany also doubled as herself in many of the scenes.
Anna Sophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) headlines as Bethany and Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid play her parents Cheri and Tom. Their pairing produces great, genuine chemistry as they provide guidance for their daughter through some challenging life events. “The right guy will love you exactly the way you are,” Cheri tells Bethany as she wrestles with the attack aftermath. The family characters are closely involved in the tragic event that unleashes an amazing spirit of determination, hope, and faith.
Other stars include Lorraine Nicholson, Kevin Sorbo, and Craig T Nelson, who is the only one without a particularly strong and natural performance. Music star Carrie Underwood in her acting feature film debut as Bethany’s youth minister Sarah who quotes Jeremiah 29:11 to Bethany as they discuss God’s plans for her life and why terrible things happen.
The surfing culture and family faith are well represented here. Robb’s physical abilities provide so much authenticity as the film crew creates spectacular shots that give audiences the real sense of surfing. The events warm and challenge the heart throughout the 104-minute running time without gratuitous content or manipulative dialogue/situations. Filmmakers also expand beyond the family segments where letters to Bethany are read aloud. These sequences have visual montages, but showing the text where the audience could read along would have had a better impact.
Be sure to check out some great video of Bethany at the ending credits and the 31-minute documentary Heart of a Soul Surfer. This uplifting drama comes recommended (*** out of four stars) and is rated PG for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler