Based on a true story—as shared in the bestselling novel of the same name—Penguin Bloom is about one family’s recovery journey, after Mother, Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts), incurs a near-fatal accident on a vacation in Thailand.
The sudden loss of mobility impacts every facet of her life, from her ability to return to work to caring for her three rambunctious children, and throws Sam into a sudden and deep depression.
All members of the family are affected by her withdrawn behaviour and obvious unhappiness, but the story is narrated through the eyes of her eldest son, who is about 10 years old. Only when a broken-winged Magpie “Penguin” arrives in the Bloom’s life do things begin to change for the better. And while some may view the mirrored recovery, between bird and Mother, as sappy or farfetched, it’s quite touching and will have you smiling.
The plot is a classic ‘life can change in a heartbeat’ narrative, but unlike so many films that show a miraculous physical recovery, Penguin Bloom is far more about mental health. “The images were so compelling, and the story was filled with courage and hope,” Watts told People; anyone watching will easily grasp why it was a story made for the big screen, and why Watts was compelled to not only star in the film, but produce it too.
Set in Australia, the film is visually stunning and the kind of sunny (quite literally) feel-good story that is especially comforting right now. From rushed mornings trying to get out the door, to rowdy family dinners to feelings of despair, there’s an access point for every audience member, whether you relate to the heartbroken child who awaits the return of the parent they know and love, or the husband who is desperately trying to uplift his partner, or Sam—who is mourning her old life, and having great difficulty finding joy with her new set of circumstances.
Penguin Bloom is a story overflowing with hopeful messages, without caving to a neatly tied happily-ever-after ending. Gripping, heartfelt, and an absolute pleasure to watch—it’s easy to understand why Watts was determined to make this film.
Penguin Bloom is available to watch on Netflix now.