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'Soul Surfer' story sends inspiring message

Have you ever wanted to learn how to surf, or have you actually done it? What about with one arm? Not many people could do this, but a new movie sets out to share the story of one girl who did.

Upon searching for a good movie, the announcement of the choice for Sadie Hawkins spiked my interest. Although the students planned to see Soul Surfer on April 9, I had an opportunity to watch this with my church on opening night.

The Sean McNamara film tells the true story of professional surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSofia Robb), who, at age 14, lost her arm in a shark attack.

Soul Surfer begins with Bethany (Robb) as a baby in the ocean with her parents. Then viewers are introduced to important characters in the movie, including her dad Tom Hamilton (Dennis Quaid), mom Cheri Hamilton (Helen Hunt), best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) and her youth pastor Sarah Hill (Carrie Underwood).

Throughout the first half of the movie, the audience is introduced to Bethany’s family. The Hamiltons seem like the epitome of the perfect family, as they all have fun and never engage in disagreements. Their lives revolve around surfing, and they show support for each other in all they do. The kids, as well as Bethany’s best friend Alana, are home-schooled.

After a surfing competition and a night surfing on Halloween, Alana’s dad, Holt (Kevin Sorbo), arrives to take the girls and Alana’s brother out to the north shore to ride the bigger waves. After paddling the long circle around the reef, they enjoy surfing before finally taking a breather. Bethany is sitting upright on her board, when suddenly a shark attacks her, biting off her left arm in a tragic scene.

Because of her composure, Bethany is able to keep Holt and Alana calm enough to get her to shore. Later, she awakes in the hospital bandaged and pale. The doctor informs the parents that she is a living miracle. After being discharged from the hospital, Bethany realizes the extremely different life she will live. She has to relearn almost all of the simplest things, such as making food for herself and her family. The attack begins to start fights between the formerly perfect family.

Bethany learns how to surf again, but competing is a whole different story. She is hassled by paparazzi, pointed at, treated differently, and this begins her frustration with God and her new life. She seeks the answers to her questions in many different ways and ends up with a response she never expected.

I enjoyed this movie a lot because it was relatable to the struggle we Christians may have with our faith. We ask the question “Why me?” and Bethany shows how difficult it is, but pushes through it anyway. Because the movie is based on a true story, the plot is not merely what the director thought would make a good film; rather, it is a portrayal of how Bethany’s experiences actually played out.

Robb exceeded my expectations for her part, as she was able to portray both pain and happiness. She took the time to learn to surf, and one could tell by her performance that she loved it herself. My two favorite scenes in this movie show the growth in Bethany’s experience. The contrast between Bethany trying to make sandwiches right after being discharged, and later when she is able to make breakfast on the day before Thanksgiving, is huge.

Quaid and Hunt were both first-rate as well. The pain they were able to show with each other was real and heartbreaking. During the moments when they were speechless, they conveyed emotion through their facial expressions and eyes.

Although I am a fan of Carrie Underwood as a singer, her acting performance in this movie was fake and amateur. I feel that she did not embrace the part she was given. Rather than experience what her character felt, she attempted to show it only through her words.

The movie contained a lot of action scenes which were full of excitement and anxiety. The surfing scenes kept me entertained. I appreciated that they did not only show Bethany, but also displayed the other competitors.

Another scene I enjoyed was Bethany’s trip to Thailand. She was able to impact the people and experience God’s love through showing others not to fear the water. That was one scene that I appreciated as genuine rather than a fake interpretation of the Christian faith.

The content and the message were both good and somewhat inspiring. As for the sad moments, this movie is a tear-jerker. Though the script is corny, the movie is still cute, and I appreciated the ending footage of the real Bethany Hamilton. From the few shots shown of her, one can tell she was heavily involved in making the movie as accurate as possible.

Because of my positive impression, I would recommend this movie to everyone. It stands as a great entertainment option for both a family night and a time to hang out with friends.

Soul Surfer is rated PG. The film runs at 106 minutes and is playing at most local theaters. For tickets and showtimes, visit Fandango.

For more movie reviews, read the April 8 article, Engaging plot, uplifting theme strengthen ‘Source Code.’

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