Through unnerving details about the calm before the storm and the devastation after, J.A. Bayona’s 2012 disaster film ‘The Impossible’ follows the story of Maria, who, along with her husband Henry and their sons Lucas, Simon, and Thomas, is enjoying a quiet Christmas holiday near a beach in Khao Lak, Thailand. Suddenly, as something starts to feel wrong, they’re all swept away by a huge approaching wave of the Indian Ocean that destroys their hotel and everything else with it. The whole family is separated, with Maria thrown deep into the water. She somehow finds her way to the surface and gets reunited with her oldest son, Lucas. But three members of her family are still missing, and there’s chaos all around her. Maria is based on a real person and the movie leaves one intrigued about her current whereabouts!
What Happened to the Real María Belón?
In December 2004, Spanish doctor María Belón decided to take a Christmas vacation with her husband Enrique Álvarez, and their kids, Lucas, Tomás, and Simón. They booked Orchid Resort Hotel in Khao Lak, Thailand, with a gorgeous view of the beach. The plan was to relax in some fresh air and take the kids to the pool for a dip. On December 26, Enrique, being the doting father, took his youngest boys a little ahead for a swim while María could still see them and feel grateful about getting to spend some time off with her beautiful family.
Since there were no signs, Maria and everyone around her didn’t know what to make of the sudden horrible sound they heard. When a sort of 30-foot “black wall” of the sea started making its way towards them, Maria couldn’t fathom what exactly was going wrong at that moment. No one at that point understood that a 9.1 magnitude earthquake in the Indian Ocean, with its epicenter in Sumatra, Indonesia, had created these disastrous waves, one of which hit Maria and her family, separating them all as they got submerged underwater.
As she felt herself drowning and panicking at the moment, María ended up spending three minutes underwater, which impacted her lungs. She had gashes on her chest, was experiencing internal bleeding, an injury in her right thigh, and many other wounds. But through the pain and discomfort, she felt some hope when she spotted Lucas and somehow got the energy to bring him to safety with her. When she started assuming that Enrique and her younger boys might not have survived, he was assuming the same thing about her as he clung onto another tree and finally got hold of Tomás and Simón nearby. It took some time, but miraculously, all the members of the family survived and were reunited at a hospital where María was getting treated for her injuries. She spent over a year in many hospitals after the incident.
Where is María Belón Now?
María Belón and her family survived something over 200,000 people from different countries could not. But the trauma of the incident stayed with them for a long time, even after it, making the idea of a vacation itself and the sea seem very scary to them. But now, after many years have passed, María has drawn strength from this life-changing incident and feels that it has changed her for the better since she doesn’t feel scared anymore. In fact, in an attempt to heal from the process and feel grateful for having survived something like this, María even assisted in the creation of ‘The Impossible’ as a consultant and was an active presence on the sets of the film, helping to get all the details of the event right with Naomi Watts, who plays her in the movie.
For the filming process, María and her family went back to the same resort in Thailand despite their traumatic memories, and according to her, the experience was much better for them and not difficult at that time. María is now a motivational speaker determined to provide strength and inspiration to others through the story of how her family survived such a disaster. Everyone in her family now wants to make an impact, and they even visit a beach every year on December 26 to feel grateful for this opportunity of a new life that they got and to pay tribute to everyone else with them during that journey who didn’t make it, including the young children of a grieving husband who helped Enrique look for his wife and son through the wreckage.
María now travels the world for her motivational speeches and even discussed her experience in a BCC Speakers motivational video in 2020 and an interview with Psicóloga Magdalena Vila in 2022. In these speeches, María discusses PTSD and the lesson one can learn from something of that magnitude that happens in someone’s life. As of 2020, she also continues to work as a doctor. Ultimately, she wants the world to learn the process of healing and feel grateful about surviving if anyone has to go through something as intense as this.