Tim Drake is an award-winning writer and former journalist and radio host with the National Catholic Register/EWTN. He currently serves as New Evangelization Coordinator for the Holdingford Area Catholic Community in the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. He resides with his wife and five children in St. Joseph, Minn.
Last weekend, in celebration of my father’s retirement, we took my parents and our children to see the new film Soul Surfer, the story about professional surfer Bethany Hamilton’s comeback after a shark attack. I’ve reflected on the film all week, because all of us, from age eight to 65, enjoyed it far more than we expected to. In fact, the movie had some of the highest per-screen earnings from last weekend. Here’s why.
10. The cinematography is great. Who doesn’t enjoy watching a film with the beauty of Kauai’s beaches and scenery on full display?
9. The shark attack is done tastefully. Everyone I’ve talked to has said, “Oh, I don’t think I could handle seeing that.” Trust me when I say that it happens so fast that you don’t quite realize what’s happened until it’s already taken place. It’s tastefully done, and the moments after the attack, while tense, are handled well.
8. Where have Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt been? They’re both likable actors, and it seems like it’s been a while since we’ve seen them. They’re great as Bethany’s surfing parents. It was enjoyable to see them again.
7. It doesn’t preach, but simply tells the story. Unlike many other films made by Christians, the movie doesn’t use the film to preach to the audience. It simply tells Bethany’s captivating story, and in doing so, captivates the audience.
6. It portrays home-schooling respectfully. How rare is that?
5. The film portrays a family for what a family is – a father, mother, and their children. It doesn’t toss in a variety of other objectionable characters or situations. The film is a great example of a family that loves one another. That doesn’t mean that everything’s perfect, but it’s reassuring to see a movie about a fairly typical family.
4. It’s an inspiring film about an inspiring woman. There’s no getting around it. Bethany’s story is one that makes you want to cheer. My daughters especially found the film inspiring, but even my crusty father told me he really enjoyed the film afterwards. It makes you want to do things you thought were impossible.
3. Bethany Hamilton does all of the post-accident surfing in the film. It’s quite stunning to watch the surfers do what they do, but when you realize that Bethany did all of the post-accident surfing/stunt work, it’s all the more impressive.
2. Christianity isn’t treated with disdain, and those who are Christians aren’t portrayed as crazy. The Hamilton family is shown at an outside Church service, Bethany’s father quotes Scripture at Bethany’s bedside, Bethany is shown at a Church youth group gathering, her youth pastor is portrayed compassionately, Christian charity is shown, and the real-life Bethany cites Jesus Christ in the post-film real-life video montage. How refreshing to find the Christian faith in a very natural way. None of it seemed forced, and there wasn’t any point where the faith was disparaged.
I especially enjoyed the post-accident scene, where Bethany is hovering between life and death, and finds herself surfing towards the Light. At the last moment, we see Bethany’s eyes turn toward the side and she moves in a different direction.
1. Soul Surfer is being widely distributed by a major Hollywood company. That gives me great hope that we might see similar fare in the coming years.
So, if you don’t have any plans for the weekend, gather your family, friends, parents, relatives and go see Soul Surfer. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, and you’ll be cheering by the film’s end.