“The Soul Surfer”
In 2003, teenager Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) lives in Kauai, Hawaii with her parents Tom (Dennis Quaid) and Cheri (Helen Hunt), and two brothers, Noah (Ross Thomas) and Timmy (Chris Brochu). All are surfers, but she and her best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) have grown up with a passion for the sport and enter a competition. Her church youth ministry leader, Sarah Hill (Carrie Underwood), is disappointed when she has to withdraw from a planned missions trip because of the contest.
Bethany and Alana place first and third, respectively, while the second place winner, Malina Birch (Sonya Balmores), proves to be resentful. Bethany invites both girls up on the winner’s box with her, but Malina ungraciously refuses. The Rip Curl surfwear company offers to sponsor her and Alana in competition.
The night before Halloween, Alana and Bethany sneak off with some friends to go surfing. Later while Tom goes to the hospital for knee surgery, both girls go surfing with Alana’s father Holt (Kevin Sorbo) and Brother Byron (Jeremy Sumpter). As Bethany dangles her left arm in the water, a tiger shark appears out of nowhere and sinks its teeth into it, biting it off near the shoulder. Holt gets Bethany out of the water and puts a tourniquet on her while Byron calls 911. An ambulance meets them on the way to the hospital. Just before starting Tom’s knee surgery, Dr. David Rovinsky (Craig T. Nelson) is called to the emergency room to treat Bethany. Besides losing her left arm, Bethany also lost 60% of her blood and David calls her
survival a miracle.
Bethany’s injury prevents her participating in the Rip Curl photo shoots, but she wishes Alana well. Inside Edition, a television program, offers to provide a prosthetic arm that is cosmetically perfect and has bendable joints, in exchange for an interview. Bethany angrily rejects it when she learns it will not help her surf as it is not weight bearing, due to the size of the stump of her arm. The onslaught of paparazzi also proves to be a great strain on her family and their privacy. The Hamiltons are grateful to Holt for his quick thinking and decisive action that saved her life. Bethany perseveres and, after a recuperation period, gets back in the water and learns to surf with one arm, eventually re-entering the competition. She tells her rival Malina not to take it easy on her, and rejects a five-minute head start offered by the judges. She does not perform well because she cannot stay on the board long enough to go out and catch a competitive wave and Malina wins. Disheartened, she decides to give up competitive surfing. Bethany sees the effects of the 2004 tsunami on television, which places her own problems in perspective. She decides to surprise Sarah by joining the youth group on another mission trip to help the devastated people of Phuket, Thailand. They are understandably afraid of the water, including a little boy. Bethany decides to go into it with a surfboard, hoping this will coax him into it. It works, and the realization that she can use her gift to inspire people motivates her to take up surfing again.
Tom rigs a handle on her surfboard which she can use to prevent falling off while paddling out to the waves, which is not prohibited by the competition’s rules. He also voices the belief that she possesses a great surfer’s instinct for sensing when the best waves will form. She enters the national championship, thanks Malina for treating her as a serious competitor, and performs respectably, though she is still chasing third place. Suddenly, with only minutes left on the clock, the waves die down and all the surfers can only loiter, waiting for the waves to start back up. Tom’s belief in his daughter’s instinct is proven when she is the only one to sense a big wave forming, and she alone paddles out. When it forms, the others cannot get out in time and she catches it just as the horn sounds. If it is in time, she will win, but the judges rule that the time has expired. Malina is the winner, but she has finally gotten over her differences with her, inviting her up on the platform to share first place. Subsequently, Bethany lets the reporters interview her. One asks her what she would do if given the chance to undo the loss of her arm. She says that she would still lose it because she can embrace more people now than she ever could with both. The film ends with real video of Bethany surfing after the attack.
My problem with “Soul Surfer” is that it makes it look too simple. Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) has a loving family of professional surfers and a big, friendly dog. She lives in walking distance of the beach. She was and is a committed churchgoer and got great support from her spiritual leaders. She was an indomitable optimist with a fierce competitive spirit. But there had to be more to it than that. I applaud her faith and spirit. I give her full credit for her determination. I realize she is a great athlete. But I feel something is missing. There had to be dark nights of the soul. Times of grief and rage. The temptation of nihilism. The lure of despair. Can a 13-year-old girl lose an arm and keep right on smiling? The flaw in the storytelling strategy of “Soul Surfer” is that it doesn’t make Bethany easy to identify with. She’s almost eerie in her optimism. Her religious faith is so unshaken, it feels taken for granted. The film feels more like an inspirational parable than a harrowing story of personal tragedy. Even its portrait of her recovery and rehabilitation is perfunctory. There’s a particularly unconvincing scene where she’s fitted with a prosthetic arm and refuses to wear it. They’re making remarkable progress in the field of prosthetics. But the arm that she’s offered looks no more useful than the arm that she rips off her Barbie doll the same night (in one of the movie’s rare moments of depression). Although I can understand a good prosthetic might not help her balance on a surfboard, I believe one might be of use in other situations — and I don’t mean cosmetically. Maybe I’m mistaken. “Soul Surfer” is a wholesome movie, intended as inspirational. Whether it will cheer viewers who are not as capable as Bethany is an excellent question. AnnaSophia Robb is a convincing, cheerful heroine. Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt, as Bethany’s parents, are stalwart and supportive, although the script indeed leaves them with no other choice. SOUL SURFER has very poignant moments that will bring tears to your eyes. It has one of those endings that make the movie work, despite some light weight scenes. AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany gives a wonderful performance. A cast of veterans provides great support. The good news is that real courage comes from deep faith in Jesus Christ, not just willpower. There are powerful church scenes, but they shouldn’t alienate secular viewers because they are extremely real. Bravo!
III. Psychological Disorder
The Psychological disorder in this movie was Major depression disorder is an (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, unipolar disorder or recurrent depression in the case of repeated episodes) is a mental disorder characterized by episodes of all-encompassing low mood accompanied by low self-esteem and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. The understanding of the nature and causes of depression has evolved over the centuries, though this understanding is incomplete and has left many aspects of depression as the subject of discussion and research. Major depression significantly affects a person’s family and personal relationships, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. Its impact on functioning and well-being has been compared to that of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes. A person having a major depressive episode usually exhibits a very low mood, which pervades all aspects of life, and an inability to experience pleasure in activities that were formerly enjoyed. Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred. In severe cases, depressed people may have symptoms of psychosis. The diagnosis of major depressive disorder is based on the patient’s self-reported experiences, behavior reported by relatives or friends, and a mental status examination. There is no laboratory test for major depression, although physicians generally request tests for physical conditions that may cause similar symptoms
Soul Surfer is a great movie to watch with your family and I would recommend this movie to anyone. This film was very well done and what’s better is its all based on a true story and from the looks of the credits where they show real footage they certainly stayed true to it! Robb does a great job as young Bethany who loses her arm to a shark attack, and we follow her struggle to get back in the water and compete as a surfer once again. It’s a very emotional film but thanks to some great acting and beautiful scenery it all comes together nicely.
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board by Bethany Hamilton
John R. Leonetti