There’s nothing more rewarding than watching a feel-good movie based on a true story. It just pulls the heartstrings in all the right places. With that said, The Impossible isn’t exactly a feel-good movie. The majority of it’s terrifying and scary and downright devastating to watch. The film follows a well-to-do British couple on vacation with their three young sons in the days before and after the tsunami hits.
Maria (Naomi Watts) and Henry (Ewan McGregor) are enjoying time at the hotel pool when the infamous wave comes crashing down on their vacation. Their lives are instantly changed as Maria ends up alone in the swirling waters with her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) while Henry’s safe on land with the younger two boys Simon (Samuel Joslin) and Thomas (Oaklee Pendergast). The majority of the movie focuses on Maria’s struggle to survive an infection she got in the polluted tsunami waters and Henry’s struggle to reunite his family without even knowing if Maria and Lucas survived. Whoever did Naomi Watts’ make-up in this film deserves an award, maybe even all the awards. She looked like death. Absolute, wretched death.
Her miraculous recovery combined with her emtional reunion with her family will have you in tears by the end. Even though you knew they all survived, it still amazes you that they did. That amidst all the horrible devastation and sorrow, they managed to keep their family of five intact. It’s enough to make you believe in something.
Naturally I started googling “The Impossible” true story as soon as I got home. I had to know how similar this amazing story was to what really happened. And I’ll admit, after seeing how closely Argo followed the their true story, I had high hopes for this one.
However the real story behind The Impossible doesn’t appear to exist online. The little I could find offered me no information on what the family really went through when the tsunami hit. While that doesn’t take away from the film, it certainly makes me wonder how many dramatic liberties they took with this story. Is it as true as they say? I don’t know.
Here’s what I do know. The real family is from Spain. The mother’s name is Maria Belon and the father’s name is Enrique Belon. They have three sons and their names are Lucas Belon, Simon Belon and Tomas Belon. They vacationed in Thailand over the Christmas holidays in 2004. They appear to support the movie and can be seen here at the premiere.
That’s it. That’s all that we know. Do I believe they got separated? Yes. Do I believe they reunited with each other? Yes. But do I believe everything that happened between their separation and their reunion (ie. the whole movie)? I don’t know.
In an interview printed in the Orlando Sentinel Naomi Watts says that the real Maria Belon told her about what really happened during the storm — which makes me feel a little more confident that the entire movie’s not made-up.
Watts credits the real Maria Belon for being “an open book” when it came to recalling her personal experience during that harrowing time.
The two met before shooting began, and Belon was on the film set. Belon, a physician in Spain, also wrote detailed letters chronicling her experience, including taking refuge in a tree and the Thai villagers who discovered her weak and injured body.
And an article in Deadline says the family enjoyed watching the film when it premiered at the International Toronto Film Festival in the fall.
Last night, Enrique Belon told me that he, his wife Maria and sons Lucas, Tomas and Simon actually enjoyed watching the film, though they admit it helped having watched production and an earlier screening to prepare themselves to relive a nightmare. And no, they don’t relive the nightmare in dreams each night, at least not anymore.
However that’s about as much as I can find about the real story of what happened to the Belon family after the tsunami hit. Is it possible that their kismet reunion really happened in real life? I’d like to think so, but the lack of information out there makes me wonder.
Does not knowing the true story take away from the movie’s powerful message? No. It’s still a reminder that this disaster happened and that it happened to real, live human beings with loving families. Every member of this family miraculously survived while so many others died. So, so many others.
While the movie certainly glosses over that point and while it certainly white-washed the Belon family story, it still reminds us about the sanctify of life. Hopefully we can remember its message the next time a natural disaster hits. The number we hear reportered aren’t just numbers, they’re all individual human beings who can’t possibly be clumped into a body count figure.
(Photos: FayesVision/WENN.com, Max Powell, PacificCoastNews.com)