Courageous Teen Never Gives Up
Based on teenager Bethany Hamilton’s real-life story, Soul Surfer emerges as an inspiring movie about courage and faith. After a huge shark bites off one of Bethany’s arms, she could have given up her passion for surfing and nobody would have been surprised. However, quitting the very thing she loved so much was not what this remarkable young girl wanted to do. Instead, she worked hard overcoming almost impossible obstacles to become a surfing champion despite losing an arm.
Playing Bethany, AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia) delivers another splendid performance. She projects youthful exuberance and joy at the beginning of the film in happy scenes with her close-knit Christian family and her loyal best friend Alana (Lorraine Nicholson). Then, when the terrible tragedy strikes, Robb shows the depth of her acting skills by using her big eyes to draw us into the suffering Bethany must be going through. The lovely family sequences prior to Bethany’s accident help us understand why she received such staunch support from her parents and her two brothers. Clearly, they all care deeply about each other – and the actors make us care about their characters. Dennis Quaid (The Rookie), Helen Hunt (Pay It Forward), Ross Thomas (The Cutting Edge: Going for the Gold) and Chris Brochu (Solar Flare) are quite convincing in these key roles.
Directed by Sean McNamara, Soul Surfer reminds me of Raise Your Voice, another fine film he helmed. Both of these movies tell substantive stories about a teenage girl surviving tragedy, finding herself and living her dream. However, in Soul Surfer McNamara capitalizes on John Leonitti's (The Scorpion King) breathtaking cinematography during the surfing sequences, which definitely adds something extra special to this movie. McNamara also knows how to pick up the pace during the final climactic surfing competition scenes. I’m not a surfing fan, but that part of the movie thrilled me almost as much as the racing scenes in Secretariat.
Although I enjoyed Soul Surfer, I wish singer Carrie Underwood had received more camera time. Portraying youth pastor Sarah Hill, she lights up the screen in her few scenes. Too bad her role wasn’t expanded upon here. I loved watching the rapport between Underwood and Robb as their characters interact during a Thailand mission, especially with one extremely shy youngster.
Soul Surfer offers a role model for everyone – not just teenage girls. Bethany Hamilton displays the wisdom of Plato, who described courage as “a kind of salvation.” Plus she’s living proof of Anais Nin’s belief that life “shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Courage is being scared to death – and saddling up anyway. – John Wayne
(Released by Film District and rated “PG” for intense accident sequence and thematic material.)
For more information about Soul Surfer, go to the Internet Movie Data Base or Rotten Tomatoes website.