I saw this posted as a coming attraction on Starz back in December, and thought it might be a decent candidate for a SRPS movie night, so I recorded it. I didn't have high hopes for it because of its two star rating, and in general these types of movies are often a bit hokey and emotionally manipulative.
As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. It's not high art by any means, but the story is compelling enough to overcome the mediocre writing. And it has Helen Hunt, whom I adore.
I remember hearing about Bethany Hamilton a couple of years ago when the attack first happened, and again when I saw her photo in a magazine after she started surfing again. But outside of those two instances, I hadn't really given her story much attention.
What I liked about the movie is the portrayal of her strong relationships with her family. Her dad, played by Dennis Quaid, pushes her, but not out of any kind of selfish reasons. He wants her to be happy on her own, no matter what she decides. And her mom, played by Helen Hunt, is caring and supportive without being overly protective. Both seem to genuinely support her in her quest to get back into surfing without burdening her with any of their own fears.
Another thing that struck me about the film was the focus on her as an athlete, rather than as a girl. Sure, she's a girl who is an athlete, but never do I get the sense that anyone expects anything less from her than her best, just because she's a girl. If anything, this movie doesn't rely on the sexy beach babe trope.
Sure Bethany and her best friend and fellow surfer, Alana Blanchard, are attractive, slim, blonde, and tanned. But aside from a scene involving a photoshoot for a sponsor, it's never played up for the sex appeal. This may be a result of the "family friendly" nature of the film.
It may also be attributed to Bethany's avowed Christian faith, which is part of the focus of the film. It's her faith that helps her heal emotionally, and to find the mental stamina needed to get back into surfing after her attack. In fact, the title of her autobiography, which I fully intend to read now, is Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board.
Would I go out of my way to watch this film again? Probably not. I can say I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a positive story about overcoming odds, emotional strength, and girl athletes. If you have a young woman in your life who could use some inspiration, this would be a good place to start.