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Learning to Fly Without Wings: A TIFF Review of ‘Penguin Bloom’

September 12, 2020Ben MK

It takes courage, determination and faith — not to mention the love and support of family and friends — to turn tragedy into triumph. But sometimes, just sometimes, even that isn't enough. And as we see in Glendyn Ivin's Penguin Bloom, that's when a little encouragement from an unorthodox family pet can make a world of difference.

Based on the book of the same name, the film tells the inspiring true story of Sam Bloom (Naomi Watts). A wife to husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln) and a mother to 10-year-old Noah (Griffin Murray-Johnston), 9-year-old Rueben (Felix Cameron) and 7-year-old Oli (Abe Clifford-Barr), Sam has her reality shattered when an accident during a family trip to Thailand leaves her a T6 paraplegic. But when she forms an unlikely bond with an injured magpie nicknamed Penguin, it marks the beginning of another turnaround in her life. And as the Blooms nurse Penguin back to health, so too does the scrappy young bird help Sam on the road to her own recovery, encouraging her not just to come to terms with her disability, but to embrace and make the most of it.

Featuring touching performances from both human and feathered performers alike, Penguin Bloom is a heartwarming tale that will appeal to animal lovers everywhere. More importantly, though, it's proof of the resilience of the human spirit, as well as a moving reminder to live each day to its fullest.

Penguin Bloom screens under the Special Presentations programme at the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival. Its runtime is 1 hr. 35 min.

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