In “Penguin Bloom,” a Magpie Steals the Show and Captures the Hearts of a Wounded Family

By far, my post with the most views on a single day is “Eight Years Ago, ‘The Impossible’ Happened,” published the day after Christmas in 2012. In it, I write about the movie The Impossible, in which Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor portray a couple whose family is vacationing in Thailand when the 2004 tsunami hits. For some reason, that post got into the gears of Google’s machinery and for a time showed up on the first page of search results for the film’s title.

Though I don’t expect anything near those kind of results, it’s with a little bit of déjà vu that I’m now writing about Watts’ 2020 Netflix movie Penguin Bloom. Again, Watts plays a woman vacationing in Thailand with her husband and three young sons when tragedy strikes. This time, though, it’s not a region-wide disaster, but a personal one, with Watts’ character, Ann Bloom, falling off a rooftop and breaking her back, leaving her a paraplegic.

Bloom’s story following the accident is ultimately an uplifting one, with much of the inspiration coming from an odd source, an injured Australian Magpie, named Penguin, that is adopted as part of the family. You can probably see a series of clichéd plot points writing themselves, but the film is actually based on real life—with a real-life magpie—written about by Ann’s husband, Cameron, in Penguin Bloom: The Odd Little Bird Who Saved a Family.

The first portion of the film centers on the devastating effects, physical and emotional, of Ann’s injury, with things looking much more hopeful by the end. This progression comes through in two small scenes, one early on and one much later.

In the first, Cameron comes home from work and asks Ann, “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” she answers.

But then as he helps her into bed, she voices her frustration: “Never ask me that question in front of the boys again.”

“What question?” he asks.

“How am I?” she replies. “I don’t want to have to lie to them,” and he answers, “OK.”

In the second, at a more positive time in Ann’s healing, she invites Cameron to ask “that question.”

“Which question?” he asks.

She answers, “The one I told you never to ask me.”

“How are you?” he responds.

“I’m better.”

Here’s a trailer for the film, followed by a two-part story on Penguin and the rest of the Blooms from 60 Minutes Australia.