Faith shines in story of real-life shark attack

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP | Contributor
Sunday, March 27, 2011

“Soul Surfer” is the true story of Bethany Hamilton, the 13- year-old Christian surfer girl in Hawaii who lost an arm in a shark attack. She got right back out there and kept surfing — her love for Christ and surfing stronger than ever.

The story of how “Soul Surfer” was made is almost as exciting as the story of Bethany and her amazing family. Some savvy Christians convinced Sony Pictures to tell the real story of Bethany (which is inseparable from her faith), and do a big budget film of $20 million.

Sony’s money was well spent. “Soul Surfer” looks and feels big budget, and is just a successful film all around. The sweeping aerial and underwater cinematography of Hawaii and surfing is mesmerizing and breathtaking.

“Soul Surfer” is a family drama; a sports movie (all-girl surfing!); a story of faith, hope and love; and almost a nature-action film. The crisis sequence is first-rate. Not gory, not overdone, but pulls no punches at the same time. The pacing, emotions and reactions are perfect.

Helen Hunt — looking tanned and beautiful — plays Bethany’s mom. The role fits her like a glove (perhaps because in real life she surfs). Dennis Quaid plays Bethany’s dad. Kevin Sorbo is Bethany’s best friend’s dad, Carrie Underwood plays her youth minister, and Bethany is played by the truly luminous AnnaSophia Robb.

Bethany, her parents and her two brothers all surf, so all the actors had to learn to at least stand up on a surf board, but from there on out, professional surfers do the fancy stuff, including the real Bethany.

The family dynamic is realistic and functional. Parents talk to teens like they are human beings. Teens talk to parents like they actually love them, and might even like them. Family members help and care for each other. Christianity is just a taken-for-granted, matter-of-fact element in the life of the Hamiltons.

This is not a movie that you will need to go to the theater to “support,” because it’s a “good, Christian film and we hope they make more like this.” You will love this film. It is the best film of 2011.

You will not be ashamed to take your friends, Christian or non-Christian. It is a very cool film. You and your friends may not even be cool enough to see this film. But go and “support” it any way, especially on opening weekend — April 8 — because that’s what counts when Hollywood is crunching numbers.