A tragic accident. A woman in distress. An animal with which to form an emotional bond. Penguin Bloom is exactly the movie you think it is.
The story sounds somewhat ridiculous, that a woman paralyzed from the chest down after falling off a building in Thailand forms a bond with a rescued magpie named Penguin, and that the magpie reunites the family in love and fellowship in a way that they haven’t been since said accident. You know what though? It kind of works.
Let’s get this out of the way; Penguin Bloom is not a great film. it is not going to win awards or be hailed as a revelatory story, but it does manage to be slightly more than the sum of its parts, and there are two things to thank for this.
First, the film is visually stunning. Featuring gorgeous 4k flyovers of Australian and Thai vistas, the film is a glimpse at a natural paradise and is enough to make anyone want to move to warmer climes. Second, Naomi Watts is good in the part. The film isn’t particularly well written and often has characters telling us exactly what we should be feeling and why, but Watts elevates her part by bringing sincerity but no schmaltz to a film that could otherwise be loaded with the stuff.
Watts co-stars, especially Andrew Lincoln and Rachel House, also put in some good work but ultimately you have seen this film before, and if it weren’t based on actual events I don’t know that I would feel the same about it. As it is, it ends up being exactly the kind of easy watching, middle of the road film that streaming services were made for, and your mileage may vary.
Penguin Bloom is available on Netflix now.