‘Penguin Bloom’ is a life-affirming family drama that revolves around a family that nurses an injured magpie chick to health. Samantha, AKA, Sam (Naomi Watts), and Cameron (Andrew Lincoln), are parents to three boys. On a family holiday to Thailand, Sam suffers a severe injury that leaves her paralyzed chest down. Unable to come to terms with her circumstances, Sam finds a new purpose in life as Penguin, the Magpie, becomes a part of the Bloom family. Are you wondering if there is any truth to the plot of this film? Let us help you settle those doubts!
Is Penguin Bloom Based on a True Story?
Yes, ‘Penguin Bloom’ is based on a true story of a real-life family. In early 2013, tragedy struck the Bloom family when Sam, Cameron, and their three sons were on vacation. Sam fell from a two-story balcony, which left her with near-fatal injuries. She was shattered to learn that she would not be able to walk again. Watching other people do the things that she couldn’t, started taking a toll on Sam’s mental health. It became painful for her to be house-bound and not be able to do the things she loves.
Everything changed the day Noah (her son) rescued an injured magpie, who they named Penguin. Having the bird around made a huge difference to Sam and her family. She would talk to Penguin and enjoyed her company. Cameron felt that Penguin helped Sam recover mentally, which encouraged her to start exercising again. Cameron is a photographer and has captured many heartwarming moments of Penguin’s relationship with the family.
To ensure that the film stayed true to the family’s journey, Sam and Cameron signed on as executive producers. Sam used to write down her thoughts and feelings on her phone, which she shared with Naomi Watts. This helped the actress understand what Sam was going through at the time. Watts also spent a lot of time trying to get a better sense of Sam’s movements and how she goes about her activities of daily living. Watts wanted to capture the physicality of being paralyzed accurately.
The movie used the family’s real home at Newport in New South Wales as the filming site. To further layer in the details, the actors used some items of clothing and jewelry that actually belong to the Blooms. After the accident, the whole experience has been a significant learning curve for Sam, but she was particular that the movie should not depict a happy ending. She emphasized that living with a disability is still hard and that she will “never really accept it.”
The movie hardly strays from the real-life events. It includes accurate accounts of Penguin’s antics and even her surprise visit to the family on Rueben’s birthday. As shown in the film, Sam worked hard on her rehabilitation. She went on to represent Australia at the 2015 World Paracanoeing Championships in Milan. The last time the family saw Penguin was the night before Cameron and the kids left for Milan.
Working with the birds in the film was an experience by itself. Reportedly, eight different magpies were used to portray Penguin, along with some tricks using CGI and an animatronic bird. Most of the birds used in the movie were brought in from the Northern Territory or South Australia after filling in extensive paperwork. Many a time, the actors had to improvise their scene around whatever the bird was doing.
The director of the film, Glendyn Ivin, felt that a central theme that comes across in the movie is generosity. She noticed this in Sam’s relationship with Penguin as well as Cameron’s relationship with Sam. The power of giving and healing go hand in hand, which is what she felt is the essence of why Penguin made such a difference to Sam’s life. Having to care for another living being gave Sam a renewed sense of purpose.
The movie aptly shows how the family’s life revolved around the bird. There were nights when they were afraid that Penguin might not live to see the light of day. They did all that they could for her, including researching about magpies and feeding her as a mother bird would. After all, it takes a lot of dedication to keep an infant bird alive!
Read More: Where Was Penguin Bloom Filmed?