Based on the book by Bethany Hamilton.
Genre: based on true story; drama; inspirational
Plot Summary: [from IMBd]: Teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton overcomes the odds and her own fears of returning to the water after losing her left arm in a shark attack.
My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel. Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.
I heard Bethany Hamilton interviewed on the Chris Fabry Live! show a few years back when this movie first came out. It’s hard not to at least pause and reflect a bit on how I might react in a similar life-changing situation. That a girl could so amazingly overcome such a terrible event makes one want to know more of her story.
“Christian” movies are been slowly progressing in quality and professionalism, for which I CHEER! Stories like these need to be told well. The question was, would “Soul Surfer” be successful, or join the ranks of other cheesy inspirational film flops?
I am very happy to be able to say that this movie makes the cut! Sure, there were a few hokey scenes here and there, but overall it was very well done and worth the time to watch it. There are wonderful shots of the ocean and we get to see lots of artful surfing. Although AnnaSofia Robb is the young actress portraying Bethany (and quite well, I thought), the real Bethany Hamilton actually does a lot of the “stunt” surfing. She really is beautiful to watch!
It was also nice to see several other big name actors in this film, like Helen Hunt, Dennis Quaid, Kevin Sorbo, and Craig T. Nelson. Plus, Carrie Underwood makes her film debut as Bethany’s youth group leader. I personally liked Dennis Quaid as the father, who came across as being very real and he portrayed the emotional processing of the change in their family honestly. In particular, I liked a scene between father and daughter when they are able to be honest with how they feel about everything that has happened.
I was steeling myself for the shark attack, but was surprised at how much you don’t really see. At first I thought it was a cop out because of a low budget, then I kicked myself. How terribly gruesome am I?! We don’t need to see and dwell on violence like spectators at a gladiator game! In any case, the movie probably portrayed the shark attack more realistically that way, in that the attack was a total surprise and happened very quickly.
I remember there was a lot of controversy when this film first came out. Many Christians were concerned because of the film’s costume wardrobe (ie., female surfers wearing bikinis). I personally decided I would not let this keep me from watching an uplifting story, though I can understand why this aspect of the movie would bother others, and in particular affect guys. Would I recommend Soul Surfer? Yes! the story is absolutely worth anyone’s time! But I’m not going to deny that there are skimpily clad surfers. Bottom Line: if you think that their costumes will end up being a bigger issue for you than the message in the story, or if it will cause you to stumble, then you might find it more beneficial to go find something else to watch.
I came away from the movie thinking about some of the lines and scenes (especially the last one) and remembering to be humble and grateful for what I have. What a courageous role model Bethany Hamilton is! Highly recommended!