Story

Maria (Naomi Watts), her husband Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three children – 13-year-old Lucas (Tom Holland), 7-year-old Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and 5-year-old Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) – travel to Thailand for a Christmas holiday and stay at a luxury beachfront resort. On 26 December, while the family is enjoying the resort swimming pool, the ground starts shaking, there is a rumble like thunder, and beachfront palm trees start toppling over. Without any warning a giant wall of water crashes down on the resort, destroying everything in its way. Maria and Lucas survive, clinging to each other as they are swept along in the torrent of water. Eventually the torrent starts to go down, and Maria and Lucas wade through the debris and get up a tree. But although Lucas is mostly unhurt, Maria is badly injured. The back of her leg is torn open, and she has a severe chest wound. Also, Maria doesn’t know what has happened to Henry and her two youngest sons, and she fears the worst.

From this point, the movie follows both Maria’s and Henry’s experiences. Thai locals rescue Maria and Lucas, but she must recover from her injuries. Henry and the two younger boys have also survived, but Henry despairs as he searches Thailand for Maria and Lucas.

Themes

Natural disaster; trauma; death and loss

Violence

There is no interpersonal violence of concern in this movie.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

This movie has realistic, intense and emotional scenes of the tsunami, including graphic images of physical injuries. It also shows many dead bodies. For example:

  • The scene when the tsunami arrives is very dramatic and scary. It sounds like thunder, the ground shakes, and large palm trees fall down. A gigantic wall of water crashes down over rooftops and into the swimming pool area, sweeping people away. Maria and Lucas are swept along in the torrent of water, shouting and screaming for help. Dead bodies float face down in the water. A car floats by, and there are the sounds of a baby crying inside it. A second wall of water hits Maria and Lucas, and Lucas tumbles around under water. He’s hit several times by debris. When he comes up, he has bloody cuts and scrapes on his face. Maria also has bloody cuts on her face. Both are crying and screaming out for each other. In a scene at the end of the movie, Maria relives the experience of being swept away by the tsunami wave, and there is more intense footage.
  • After surviving the tsunami, Maria has blood all over the front of her ripped singlet and a bloody chest wound. The scene shows a graphic image of her bloody and gaping leg wound, which has torn flesh hanging from it. As Maria wraps her leg wound, a stream of blood pours from the wound into the water. When Lucas sees the wound on his mother’s leg, he gets very upset.
  • There are lots of bloody cuts on Maria’s face and shoulders, and bloody scrapes and bruises down Lucas’s back.
  • A man who is rescuing Maria drags her by the shoulders through swampy water. Maria screams in pain and begs him to stop.
  • In a later hospital scene, staff inject Maria with antibiotics and pour antiseptic over her leg wound. She screams in pain.
  • A woman lying next to Maria in hospital starts to cough violently and vomits large amounts of clotted blood. Maria also starts vomiting blood, and the end of a plant vine comes out of her mouth. She grabs it and pulls a long vine out of her mouth.
  • Several scenes show Maria wearing an oxygen mask and looking very sick. Her skin is grey, she has sunken eyes, her breathing is laboured, and sweat covers her face.
  • The movie has several scenes of hospital chaos. Blood-smeared patients lie on floors and in stairwells. Blood is splattered over the floors, and there are piles of blood-soaked towels in some areas. There are background sounds of many people screaming in pain. 

From 5-8

In addition to the disturbing scenes mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could particularly scare or disturb children in this age group. For example:

  • As the tsunami subsides, Maria and Lucas wade through swamp-like water. They see a dead dog lying in reeds with its mouth gaping open.
  • After leaving his mother’s hospital bedside for a little while, Lucas returns to find his mother gone. Lucas panics and gets very upset, mistakenly thinking that his mother is dead. He now believes his entire family is dead and is taken to a room full of orphaned children.
  • At one point, Henry tries to search for Maria. He leaves his two very scared young children with strangers. Before leaving them, Henry tells seven-year-old Thomas that he must look after five-year-old Simon. Thomas gets upset and says that he has never looked after anyone before and doesn’t know how to.
  • A very upset man cries as he talks about losing his wife and two-year-old daughter in the tsunami.
  • Henry breaks down and cries uncontrollably on the phone as he tells his father about losing Maria and Lucas.
  • While waiting to undergo surgery, Maria tells Henry that she is going to die and asks him to take care of the boys. 

From 8-13

Children in this age group are likely to be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. 

Over 13

Children in this age group might be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above. 

Sexual references

None of concern 

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

People drink wine and cocktails at the resort. 

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie shows some nudity. For example:

  • One scene shows Maria changing her top and there is a split-second, shadowy, side-on glimpse of her breast.
  • After surviving the tsunami, the left side of Maria’s singlet is torn, revealing Maria’s breast. Lucas sees and is embarrassed, turning away and telling his mother that he can’t see her that way. Maria quickly ties up her top.
  • In a later scene in the hospital, a doctor cuts the front of Maria’s singlet to see her wounds, which briefly reveals her breasts. Again Lucas seems embarrassed.
  • There are brief images of a nude man walking along the side of the road and a nude woman lying on the side of the road. The woman’s arms cover her breasts and genital area. 

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: Thai Coca Cola. 

Coarse language

This movie has some low-level coarse language. 

Ideas to discuss with your children

The Impossible is an intensely emotional drama based on a true story. It is very realistic.

Adults who see this movie might find it difficult not to be affected by its emotional intensity. The movie is definitely not suitable for children under 13 years. Parental guidance is recommended for children aged 13-15 years because of the movie’s emotional content and its realistic scenes of death and injury.

The main message from this movie is that the death and destruction caused by natural disasters can bring out the best in people, whether young or old. People can find strengths and abilities they never knew they had.

Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include the following:

  • Empathy and caring for others: throughout the movie, Lucas puts his own needs last and shows lots of empathy and care for his immediate family and also for complete strangers.
  • Determination and persistence: many characters refuse to give up their search for lost loved ones. Henry won’t give up looking for Maria and Lucas, searching the flooded countryside and then every hospital until he finds his wife and child.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues such as why people in very difficult situations might make selfless choices rather than putting their own needs first.