TIFF 2020: Penguin Bloom Review

This will be one of many reviews during this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, to keep up with our latest coverage, click here.

Sometimes audiences want to watch something uplifting. While this may still happen here, Penguin Bloom, the latest inspirational family drama based on a true story is unfortunately a little too been there done that. However, this isn’t necessarily this film’s fault as there is only so much one can do in a subgenre that has seen little innovation, usually favoring the same plot beats by checking them off a list. While many films have been guilty of doing this regardless of genre, the best ones present these beats in a compelling way. The only downside of this is that most of them just won’t come as much of a surprise to viewers. When it comes to this film, it arguably fares on the more favorable side of the spectrum.

Penguin Bloom tells the story of the Bloom family, a standard family that loved spending time in the ocean. However, tragedy would strike them as an unfortunate accident led to Sam Bloom (Watts) breaking her back and becoming paralyzed from the waist down. From that point, she was a much different woman as her husband Cameron (Lincoln) and the rest of her family were left to pick up the pieces and tend to her. Though they tried to make the best out of the situation, it wasn’t easy as guilt and remorse remained the elephant in the room. Things changed once a lone, injured magpie found a way into their lives. The contrast and parallel trajectories were blatant and their conclusions were inevitable but the personal side and the resulting internal struggle of Sam’s recovery was still compelling to watch while the magpie (named Penguin because of the film title) did admittedly have several cute moments.

In the end, what makes Penguin Bloom still work despite everything else was the always reliable Watts’ who once again delivered a solid performance as Sam Bloom. The story beats and sentimentality was predictable for the most part but she was still compelling to watch as she made us care about the character. If anything, the cinematography was nice to look at as any film shot in Australia would be. Meanwhile, the film does not wear out its welcome, clocking in at around the 90 minute mark.

At the end of the day, many audiences have already seen what Penguin Bloom has to offer but it’s still a solid time to be had and sometimes, that’s good enough.

still courtesy of TIFF

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