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Tsunami drama 'The Impossible' stirs waves of emotion in Toronto

September 10, 2012|By Nicole Sperling
  • Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor flank the surviving family of the Indian Ocean tsunami, the Belon family, featured in the new movie "The Impossible." From left: Tomas, Simon, Enrique, Maria and Lucas Belon.
Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor flank the surviving family of the Indian Ocean… (Carolyn Cole, Los Angeles…)

"The Impossible," from director Juan Antonio Bayona ("The Orphanage"), offers a fictionalized account of one family's real-life experience of being caught in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed close to 300,000 people. The film premiered Sunday night to an intensely engaged audience at the Toronto International Film Festival.

"The Impossible," starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, is part horror film, part triumph of spirit. The happy parents of three young boys vacationing in Thailand during the Christmas holiday are torn apart when the tsunami strikes in the middle of a sunny day. The movie illustrates the family's post-tsunami journey — the oldest son must help his very injured mother to safety, while the father is left with the two youngest boys, trying desperately to locate his wife and eldest child.

The film marks the culmination of a five-year collaboration among Bayona; screenwriter Sergio Sanchez, who also worked on "The Orphanage"; producer Belen Atienza; and the real-life Spanish family, including Maria Belon, the woman Watts portrays. Many in the audience were moved to tears when, following the screening, theater lights illuminated the five-member family.

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To a standing ovation, McGregor, Watts and young actor Tom Holland, who plays oldest boy Lucas, embraced the group.

A Q&A that was scheduled for after the screening was scrapped after the standing ovation went on for what seemed to be more than five minutes. Organizers deemed everyone too raw to discuss the logistics of the film.

At an after-party hosted by Summit Entertainment, which will release "The Impossible" on Dec. 21 in the U.S., the cast, crew and family spent time reflecting on the film and their experience creating it.

Enrique Balon said he didn't meet McGregor until after shooting on the film had begun. But when his wife showed him a photo of the actor wearing glasses with his head down, Enrique was struck by the way in which the pose closely resembled his own posture. "He got me," said Balon. "Clearly he didn't need me because he got there on his own."

Maria said her main role in the production of the movie was to protect the soul of the family's extraordinary story. Said Enrique of Maria's work, "She did it. Definitely."

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