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When sharks meet religion

It’s up to you whether you take a spiritual message away from Soul Surfer. Film review

IT'S an easy thing for film critics to take cheap shots at films intended to show people at their best, doing what they believe in and everything turning out right in the end.

It might look and sound clever, but, somewhere out there exists people who will see the film in question and, almost certainly, be uplifted by it.

So, let's look at Soul Surfer without any of the clever stuff and see how it stacks up as a film experience. It's a film about a 13-year-old, mad-keen surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lives in Hawaii, where great waves come along all the time.

But one big drawback is that the warm water attracts sharks – big, hungry killing machines that if they see an arm waving in the water off a surf board, might just take a casual bite to see if they like it.

And that's just what happened to Bethany, before she was due to compete in the national surfing finals.

The film shows how Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) and her family – mum Cheri (Helen Hunt), dad Tom (Dennis Quaid), and her two older brothers cope with the tragedy that nearly kills her.

It shows how the youngster, dedicated, ambitious and deeply committed to her Christian faith, makes it though the nightmare of coming to terms with lacking her entire left arm, dealing with ordinary life – and then deciding that she wants to get back in the water again and compete.

The film is a true story and the end credits show the real life Bethany Hamilton competing in the surf after her accident.

In a country such as America where faith is almost a given in vast tracts of the country, this will be a film confirming that faith.

As a film it feels a little clunky at times, with some dialogue sounding as thought it has been devised by scriptwriters, rather than the spontaneity of what they people would actually have said. However, the surfing shots are top notch and the CGI work cannot be faulted.

The religious aspects, because the film is based on the family and their sincere beliefs, comes across as modest and deep felt.

There are good actors in the mix too, with Sorbo escaping from Hercules territory to play the family friend who saved the girl's life with his quick thinking, while Quaid and Hunt add solid support.

This is a film with no great pretensions, but that, for some people, will be its main attraction.

Soul Surfer(PG)

Running time 106 minutes

Review rating ***

N2 film reviews – supported by Newbury Vue

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