They say you can see your life flash before your eyes when you face death.
But for Sam Bloom, the images of her past life, her lost life, didn’t start flashing before her eyes until after the horrible fall that almost killed her.
Up until the rotten wood cracked away from the rooftop-railing she was leaning on, Sam was an active, life-loving mom and wife. She was proud of the woman she was and the things she could accomplish through sheer muscle and will. But after plunging several stories to a concrete slab below—which broke Sam’s back and left her with no feeling from her chest down—the past was wispy and irretrievable. She was … nothing! At least, that’s the way she felt.
Now she hates how helpless she is. She hates how people look at her. She hates herself in so many ways. She can’t bear the mournful ache of all that she has lost.
Sam’s husband still tries so hard to love her and to raise her spirits. And her young boys—Noah, Rueben and Oli—are still as rambunctiously crazy and oblivious as ever. But it has all changed now. It all feels so pointless.
Oddly enough, help arrives in the form of a wounded magpie that her eldest, Noah, finds on a nearby beach and brings home. They name the broken black-and-white bird Penguin. And, to tell the truth, the squawking beasty is nothing more than another noisy annoyance at first.
In time, though, Sam starts to bond with the little pecking thing. She takes care of it, best she can, when the boys are at school.
Sam watches Penguin grow, watches her mend. And in the process, an amazing thing starts to happen: The broken pieces of the Bloom family start stitching back together.
And some broken parts deep down inside of Sam begin to piece together, too.
We spend quite a while watching Sam wrestle with her anger and frustration. We see her struggling with an overpowering sense of depression. Those are obviously not good things, but they do highlight the contrast that dawns when things start to change for the better.
Sam remains just as physically broken, of course. There’s no miracle healing here, physically speaking. But we do watch Sam begin to find hope again. She starts to connect with people in and outside her family and finds ways to invest her mind and body. The family members around Sam continue to love her and rally to her side. And as they all become distracted by Penguin’s gradual healing, they start healing from the devastation of the accident as well.
Sam and her husband, Cam, were both avid surfers and we see numerous snapshots and photos of her in a bikini. We also see them kiss.
Though not depicted in a sexual manner, we see Sam’s bare back and backside as Cam helps her go to the bathroom.
We witness Sam’s shattering fall from different perspectives, sometimes in slow motion. And the camera looks at her broken form twisted in a small pool of blood after she hits the concrete. We also quickly glimpse photos of Sam’s stitched-up back after surgery.
In the depths of her depression, Sam purposely pushes a jar of honey off a kitchen countertop (symbolically representing her own feelings of brokenness). Once, Penguin grows a bit more mobile, the bird begins pushing pots and jars off shelves and breaking things, too.
The Bloom boys (ranging in age from 8 to 11) are almost hazardously rambunctious—running noisily; pushing each other around on skateboards and off furniture; and leaping off the roof of the house to a trampoline in the yard.
Someone tells a short story about kids being bullied at school. Other magpies attack Penguin when she’s outside at one point—leaving her chest bloody. Noah eventually reveals his feelings of guilt over his mom’s accident, blaming himself for taking her up to the hotel roof where the tragedy occurred. He declares that he wished it had been him whose back was broken.
We hear a couple uses of “jeez” and “bloody,” as well as a single use of “h—.” Sam and Cam’s spirited boys holler “shut up” to each other, and Penguin is called a “little bugger.”
Some adult friends and family members drink wine at a lunch and later at a birthday dinner for Sam.
The young boys giggle and joke about “farts” and the bird’s “poo” (which tends to end up all over the place). Two of the boys get ill after eating bad oysters. We see the bathroom floor and toilet spattered with vomit as Cam rushes to their aid.
Sam’s depression gets pretty dark and difficult for the whole family at times.
“It must be weird to have wings but not be able to fly,” someone says about the injured magpie, Penguin. Of course, it’s easy to see how that’s exactly what Sam Bloom is painfully wrestling with as well.
Before her fall, Sam could readily navigate the choppy currents and gales of life. She soared physically and emotionally. She felt whole. But after that crushing accident, she was left so completely broken, so completely useless.
Based on a best-selling book, Penguin Bloom tells the true tale of Sam Bloom’s struggle to rediscover some semblance of wholeness once again; to find hope and love and reconnect with the family she dearly needs (and who need her). Her story here is inspiring, well-acted, uplifting and just a bit funny at times thanks to the feathered and squawking member of the Bloom family.
But just like a wild magpie, this pic isn’t always easy to live with. There’s joy to be found in Sam Bloom’s journey, but a lot of pain, depression and heartache to endure along the way, too. And that could play out as an uncomfortably bumpy flight for younger chicks in your nest.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.