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Penguin Bloom Film Review

★★★ Stars

Directed by: #GlendynIvin

A blue sky background graces the entire image as a woman stands (side profile) glowing in the yellow sun. Her hair blonde as she wears a simple pink shirt - holding a black and white magpie who gazes up at her from her hand, almost seen to be admiring her.

“A family takes in an injured Magpie that makes a profound difference in their lives.”

Based on a true story and a book sharing the same name, the Netflix film presents the story of Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts) whose life is completely changed after an accident that leaves her paralysed from the waist down. As Sam and the rest of her family struggle to adapt to this new approach to life, Sam’s son discovers an injured magpie that they name Penguin after its black and white colouring. The bird's arrival into the household is a welcomed distraction for the Bloom family, and Penguin eventually makes a profound difference on Sam’s outlook on life.

Penguin Bloom stands as an interesting watch to say the least. To focus on the writing itself (Shaun Grant, Harry Cripps,) it sways in limbo throughout the film — between being something distinguished and something very disarrayed. It isn’t as simple as ‘at times the writing excels and at times it doesn’t.’ The film doesn’t actually have a primary focus, even with its title giving it a very focused subject. The characters are incredibly underdeveloped by the end of the film due to this lack of a core in writing and the ability to follow sequence. However, I found myself emotionally invested and on the brink of tears at many moments throughout; this is what indicates the ‘limbo effect.’ Even without true emotional connections to the characters, strong emotion is somehow still evoked. This may be because of the nature of the heartfelt story overall but personally I would never feel my emotions be triggered if a focal point in a film is not established, making this a rare occurrence. The film would have held my attention a lot more if it was structured in a way that investigated the characters and their relationship with worry, grief and sadness though, as well as their relationship with Penguin as even that didn’t have much growth altogether.

Following on from this through a guided spotlight, I want to praise the specific sets of writing in relation to Noah Bloom (Griffin Murray-Johnston) who is one of Sam’s sons. Noah’s appearances in the film are one of the only aspects that have a sense of sequence and flow present. Noah is seen to record and edit together a video that voices his thoughts and feelings after his mother’s accident. These recordings are expertly weaved into the storyline from start to finish, possibly making Noah the best developed character of each introduced. His voiceovers in these videos project all of the emotions that he has harboured overtime, displaying joyful clips of the Bloom family before the accident which contrast with painfully saddening expressions as Noah recites how he blames himself for his mother’s injuries. Griffin Murray-Johnston’s acting is phenomenal; he has a natural approach to the role and easily fits with his character comfortably within the plot.

Without a doubt the most commendable element of Penguin Bloom is the music used in its duration. The music, by Marcelo Zarvos, matches the atmosphere of the film flawlessly with its delicate piano playing that soothes the heart as it takes a beating from the story of the Blooms. The construction of instruments used also manage to imitate the squawking of Penguin the magpie in a musical sense; higher notes pair with lighter, subdued ones to present a warming family of sound, almost mimicking that of the Bloom family through the tracks — two parents and three sons blend together in harmony while a welcomed magpie merges with them in its own way.

Penguin Bloom isn’t necessarily a highly recommended film for those who enjoy more in depth storylines, but it can be an enjoyable watch for those who thrive on films that simply tug on their heartstrings either in a positive or negative sense. Regardless, the Academy Award nominated Naomi Watts never fails to bring great energy to any type of film — one is guaranteed to enjoy her onscreen presence in Penguin Bloom over anything else.



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