Story

Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), a 13-year-old girl with the world at her feet. She’s loved by her supportive family, is part of a close-knit church, and has her best friend Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson) by her side. Bethany is also a talented surfer, dreaming of making it to the professional circuit. This seems the obvious next step after she gets a sponsorship with Ripcurl.

But one typical morning while surfing, Bethany is attacked by a shark. Although her companions save her life, she loses her arm.

The courageous Bethany and her family and friends work through their grief and loss to come to terms with the tragedy. Bethany faces the challenges of getting back to doing the thing she loves – surfing. She gains a new perspective on her life to become an inspiration for people all over the world.

Themes

Dealing with tragedy; natural disasters; spirituality

Violence

Soul Surfer contains scenes of violence and injury. For example:

  • A shark attacks Bethany. Although the scene is quite brief and restrained, blood fills the water and seeps through the dressing on Bethany’s injury. Bethany’s friend Alana, who witnesses the attack, vomits after the attack and has nightmares.
  • The dead shark is caught and shown hanging from a small crane. Bethany’s dad compares the shark’s teeth to the bite mark on Bethany’s surfboard.
  • To give Bethany a chance in a surfing competition, Alana runs into another surfer on a wave.

Content that may disturb children

Under 8

In addition to the violent scenes and scary visual images mentioned above, this movie has some scenes that could scare or disturb children under eight. For example:

  • One scene features the sudden shark attack and shows images of Bethany’s injury and the stump of her arm.
  • There are scenes from the Boxing Day tsunami and the aftermath of the devastation.
  • Some of the surfing scenes show big waves. Bethany gets knocked off her board and is held underwater for a while.

From 8-13

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

Over 13

Younger children in this age group might also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

This movie has some nudity and sexual activity. For example:

  • Bethany’s parents kiss.
  • Many characters are shown in brief bikinis and shorts.
  • Bethany and a male friend flirt mildly.
  • Alana has a photo shoot in a bikini and has to do some provocative poses.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie: surfing and skating brands including Ripcurl, Roxy and Travisty; Spam (the tinned meat); and Red Bull.

Coarse language

This movie has some very mild coarse language.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Soul Surfer is an inspiring true story. It’s likely to interest older children and teenagers, but includes scenes and themes that might disturb younger children.

The main messages from this movie are as follows:

  • Life is like surfing. When you get caught in the ‘impact zone’, you need to get back up and keep going.
  • Look at the bigger picture. There’s always someone worse off than you.
  • With love and support from people around you, you can face anything.
  • You can find strength in spiritual belief. Bethany and her family are religious. When tragedy strikes, Bethany is confused and finds it difficult to understand what ‘God’s plan’ is for her. She’s comforted when she’s told that something good must come from this.

Values in this movie that you might like to reinforce with your children include bravery and perseverance, family love and friendship, and the ability to challenge views of what’s normal.

This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about the importance of facing your fears. You could also discuss the impact of natural disasters, particularly the tsunami in South-East Asia.