There have been many tales of triumph in the face of adversity, but not many that rival the story of Bethany Hamilton and the struggles she went through mentally, physically and emotionally after she was attacked by a 15- foot tiger shark on Oct. 31, 2003. It was an event that could have, in essence, destroyed her and her family, but Bethany’s faith and religious background — along with great support from everyone around her — helped her to pull though and become the household name that she is today.
“Soul Surfer” is her story, based on the autobiography she wrote in 2005, along with interviews with her family and close friends. In the movie, we get to see her life and the progress she has made in the past seven years. Directed by Sean McNamara (“Raise Your Voice”) and being distributed by Sony Pictures Entertainment, this movie has been in the works for years, but for one reason or another failed to be made … until now.
Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) was a normal 13-year-old girl who grew up in Kauai, Hawaii, with her parents, Tom (Dennis Quaid) and Cheri (Helen Hunt), and her brothers, Noah (Ross Thomas) and Timmy (Chris Brochu). They lived in Hawaii because both of her parents were surfers and there were many opportunities for surfing competitions. Bethany was a promising young surfer who already had won competitions and was sponsored by Rip Curl. One day, while on a surfing trip with her best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) and her family, Bethany was attacked by a shark. Losing a limb and more than 60 percent of her blood, only the quick actions of her friend and her family saved her life.
Dealing with the physical and emotional trauma after the attack was hard, but then all of her plans for surfing seemed to be a near impossibility. With a life altering event like this, even the most simple and mundane tasks need to be relearned. Through all of this, Bethany wants to get back up on her surfboard, but after a few failures, her life as a professional surfer seems to be over. While struggling with all of the questions of why this happened to her, she gets advice from a youth leader at her church, Sarah Hill (played by Carrie Underwood), and there seems to be an answer on the horizon.
There aren’t many movies that move you with the emotional power and inspirational hope found in “Soul Surfer.” You witness a story where someone overcomes insurmountable odds and prevails in the face of terrible adversity. You are in awe of the strength the family seems to have when you wouldn’t expect it. After the shark attack, you get to see the wave of media attention that Bethany and the Hamilton family received that made their lives and Bethany’s struggles uncomfortably public. In the end, I believe all of that attention seemed to pave the way for her story to be made into this heartfelt film.
With gorgeous scenery and awesome shots inside of waves during surfing, the beauty of the film is matched only by the beauty of the performances. AnnaSophia Robb portrays Bethany with true realism and the filmmakers seem to hold nothing back. After barely escaping with her life, you see Bethany worrying about her appearance and all of the normal vulnerabilities you expect from a 13-year-old girl. Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt are truly touching with their performances as Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton. They both put on brave faces for their daughter, but are still worried about her future. Quaid, in particular, shows how Tom Hamilton knew and hoped his daughter would surf again, while Hunt is shown as the caring mother who just wants her daughter to be whole again.
There are many cameos by actors that lend to creating the world of Bethany’s support system. Kevin Sorbo and Jeremy Sumpter are both terrific in their roles as members of Bethany’s best friend’s family who are with her during the shark attack. Carrie Underwood’s role is small, but vital, and her tenderness in her interactions with AnnaSophia Robb are great.
The bottom line is that this is a movie for all to see. It is based in the faith and beliefs of our core characters, but will not fail to truly inspire and give hope to every man, woman and child that sees it. I, for one, walked out of the theater with a new perception of life and its hardships and how trivial some of the struggles we go through truly are in the larger picture of our lives.
Rated PG, “Soul Surfer” will ride into theaters April 8. Catch it.
. . .
Follow Adam Poynter on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CCWGGuy.
And don’t forget to “Like” It’s Just Movies on Facebook at