COVID-19's impact on the film industry is something that will be talked about for years. However, if there's been one benefit, it's that Australian films are now being considered big tentpole films. While blockbusters are constantly moving - for now at least - the Australian cinemas are a safe place. With little content coming in from Hollywood, films like 'Rams', 'The Dry' and today's 'Penguin Bloom' are the stars of the show, when in a normal release window they have been buried by American titles. To add to this, after 40 years of distributing films in Australian with Roadshow Films, Warner Bros. announced that their films will now be released by Universal Sony Pictures Entertainment, so more than ever Roadshow is looking for big home-grown titles to filled that Warner Bros. hole.
'Penguin Bloom' is based on the true story of the Bloom family, During a vacation to Thailand, matriarch Sam (Naomi Watts, 'The Impossible', 'Birdman') falls off a roof, paralysing her back and legs. Back home, the whole family is adjusting to this event and are struggling. When their oldest son Noah finds an injured baby magpie at the beach, Sam is at first hesitant to take on caring for the bird as she is still copying with her accident and new way of life, but soon they find hope in the magpie they name Penguin, who gives them a new lease on life.
While 'Penguin Bloom' does fall into often clichéd territory, it still manages to pack an emotional punch. The cast is also bringing their A-game, led by Watts as well as Andrew Lincoln (TV's 'The Walking Dead'), Jacki Weaver ('Animal Kingdom', 'Silver Linings Playbook') and the always joyous Rachel House ('Hunt For The Wilderpeople', 'Moana'), and all of the child actors are also extremely talented. The story is told with such reverence; I think that's thanks to a story based on the book written in part by Cameron Bloom (Sam's husband), and the fact they were both part of the producing team.
While 'Penguin Bloom' does fall into often clichéd territory, it still manages to pack an emotional punch.
With a lot of the story focused on the Penguin, there are some sillier moments if you aren't 100% with the movie. There's one scene where the cast is looking down from a balcony while something is happening to Penguin, just shouting. It's meant to big and dramatic but just doesn't work; maybe if they were ground level, it wouldn't have felt quite so off. Some of the lines for the child actors were also a bit iffy, again very melodramatic and not the kind of things kids would really say - but thanks all of them being extremely talented it didn't weaken the movie, it just possibly could have done with another look-over.
The film has some extremely stunning cinematography. Filmed in NSW, it also serves as a love letter to the state's beaches. It's so refreshing to see, as our films often only showcase the bloody outback.
'Penguin Bloom' is a good tear-jerker based on a true story; it's another film along with 'The Dry' that proves Australia is capable of making strong movies showcasing great talent in front of and behind the camera. Grab some tissues and someone you can hug, and go see 'Penguin Bloom' in cinemas!