‘Soul Surfer:’ A story with heart

Editor’s note: This is another in a continuing series of reviews on movies either shot on Kauai or connected to Kauai.

“Soul Surfer” is a terrific film. Compelling story, wonderful scenes, outstanding cast. It wasn’t a huge box-office smash when it came out in 2011, but it should have been. From the opening scenes of the Hamilton family and a young Bethany Hamilton to the closing scenes where we see a collage of scenes of Hamilton surfing, this film tells a story that some might find too good to be true, but it is.

To recap, “Soul Surfer” is a film about Hamilton’s life before and after a shark attack that claimed her left arm while she was surfing at Tunnels Beach. The film features AnnaSophia Robb as Hamilton, Helen Hunt as her mom, Cheri, Dennis Quaid as her father, Tom, and Lorraine Nicholson as Alana Blanchard, Bethany’s best friend and also an outstanding surfer.

It also stars Kevin Sorbo, Sonya Balmores, Branscombe Richmond and Craig T. Nelson. Older brothers Noah and Timmy are played by Ross Thomas and Chris Brochu. The closeness of the family comes across. They’ve grown up on Kauai surfing and facing life together.

Balmores, by way, was born and raised on Kauai, and plays Hamilton’s surfing rival, just as determined to beat her as ever.

Some of the scenes were shot on Kauai, which are recognizable on the North Shore.

The shark attack scene is well done. The actual attack is brief, just a blur of a figure suddenly from the deep. What follows, the frantic rush to get out of the water, get Bethany to the truck, the drive, meeting the ambulance, is heart-pounding stuff.

Bethany’s determination to return to the water is what makes this film work. Her moments of anger about what happened, regret, don’t last. She shakes them off, thanks to her Christian faith. She doesn’t seem to ever doubt, even without an arm, she can still pursue her dream to be a professional surfer. Robb takes on the character well, and Hamilton gave Robb surfing lessons while on set.

Quaid and Hunt come across as the strong parents, a bit divided over Bethany’s future. Dad, always protective, wants her to keep pushing to be a surfer. Mom, just as protective as dad, wants to be sure her daughter knows there are other things she can do. In the end, they’re both right. Bethany goes on to be a top surfer, and many doors are opened for her to become an inspiration to millions.

Really, my only beef with this film is it portrays the media as pretty much insensitive fools, just out to get a story at whatever costs, even if it means camping outside Bethany’s home.

Overall, “Soul Surfer” is a film with soul. Not everyone is going to like it because Bethany’s faith is mentioned more than once and it’s a happy ending. But that’s how it was. Really.

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Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or bbuley@thegardenisland.com.

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