This Australian drama spreads its wings and flies.
I’m no bird expert, so I don’t know much about magpies. But when I was watching “Penguin Bloom,” and I checked out a few fun facts. They’re often feisty and dangerous when they’re protecting their nestlings from predators, the magpie totem brings good luck, they can prey on larger animals, and it’s illegal to keep them as pets.
“Penguin Bloom” is kind of like an Australian version of “Fly Away Home,” which you may remember had Jeff Daniels and Anna Paquin raising baby geese and teaching them to fly. This one, released on Netflix, has Naomi Watts taking care of a magpie, and it’s not always about the bird. It mostly focuses on the family’s lives going in a downward spiral, and how second chances are discovered when they least expect them. It’s a good movie that delivers on that notion.
The movie focuses on an Australian family-consisting of Sam Bloom (Watts), her photographer husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln), and their three boys: Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnson), Reuben (Felix Cameron), and Oli (Abe Clifford-Barr)-whose lives change after a trip to Thailand causes the mother to fall and break her back. A year later, she struggles to get moving, while her husband has his hands full with the boys. They all come across an injured Magpie chick, which they name Penguin, because it’s black and white like one.
The eldest son Noah serves as the narrator of the film, explains how he blames himself for his mother’s injury, since he was the one who wanted to show her something on the roof. He even feels like she’s got estranged with him. Sam is so disillusioned by her injury that she angrily breaks pictures of her walking, standing, and surfing memories. She feels like a completely different person, now.
The bird chatters a lot, much to the mother’s annoyance, but she eventually warms up to her. At least, we think the bird is a her. And she even learns to fly. That’s when the family regains their joy. Well, at least, the bird numbs the family’s pain.
You can pretty much guess its key points, like the mother telling Noah the accident wasn’t his fault or the bird flying away, so there’s not much surprises. But still, “Penguin Bloom” has its heart in the right place when we see the mother lose her ambitions in life and struggles to regain the happiness she had. Watts delivers a sentimentally valuable performance when she balances her emotions. Murray-Johnson provides his strengths and weaknesses as Noah, and the scene when he and his mother argue is memorable. Lincoln delivers some good dialogue as Cameron, and by the way, this movie was inspired by the real Cameron Bloom’s life. And you also get supporting actors like Jacki Weaver as Sam’s mother and Rachel House as an open-minded kayak instructor.
I’ve always admired family dramas about taming and nurturing animals like in “Free Willy” or more recently, “Black Beauty” with Mackenzie Foy, because they’re good-natured, spontaneous, and honest. “Penguin Bloom” is one of those movies.
Streaming on Netflix Tomorrow