About this blog

My only daughter's name is Clea. Clea was six years and nine months old and she was enjoying a family holiday in Samoa when the ocean surged as a wall, ten metres high, and drowned her. Many other people died that morning of 29 September 2009.
The other four members of her family survived the tsunami.
Life has never been the same since. It will never be the same. This blog features memories, reflections, poetry, etc...
Just let me stay with her under this moon,
hold her in my arms, spin her in the air,
with my dear daughter in some timeless swoon.

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Impossible

We have been receiving a few well-meaning warnings about the release of the movie The Impossible. In case you don’t know, it tells the story of a Spanish family who were holidaying in Thailand when the Boxing Day 2004 tsunami struck. They all survived, miraculously. The Spanish director, Bayona, enlisted two extremely famous actors to play the roles of the parents, María and Quique.

The other day I came across a lengthy newspaper article titled ‘Unidas por el tsunami’ (United by the tsunami), and signed by a Toni García. I was curious, so I read it. I can’t help but see it as part of the huge ongoing promotional campaign for the movie; I just cannot consider it any other way.

But for me, the only thing of value in the whole article is María’s words. She chose to sell her story, and that's fine. I suppose she did so because it's a story that ends ‘well’, so to speak. Had she lost any of her three children, I'm certain the movie would have never seen the light of day.

María says she now knows herself strong, “because I know I'm fragile”. I do know what she’s talking about.

She knows her/their survival was a miracle, but says that any religious connotations attached to the word need to be removed, dispelled. In other words, it was impossible for her/them to survive, but somehow, inexplicably, she/they did. I also know what she means, and I completely agree with her. I feel exactly the same way about what my two sons, my wife and myself went through on 29 September 2009.

She acknowledges that she did make an attempt to read a book about the survivors who lost loved ones that fateful day, but she was unable to. I read Pacific Tsunami: Galu Afi, but I doubt I'll ever read it again. María thinks that the proverb “Time heals everything” is just a big lie. And I agree with her. “Time does not heal anything, time is life […] . […] from afar everything becomes more bearable, everything has become more anaesthetised. The rest are clichés”, she tells the reporter.

The journalist, Toni García, writes the following: “[María] rescued one of her sons from the water, despite being badly injured.” Hey, welcome to the real world, Toni García! Any worthy parent, let me tell you, would try to save their child in such circumstances.

Asked whether it is good to talk [about the tsunami], María replied: “It depends on who you talk to. There are very few people who will sit with you and talk about the subject openly. Me, I ask a lot of questions, and if someone’s had an accident I will ask them, patiently. However, at least in my case, people think it is taboo to talk about it, about the wave, the tsunami. When I returned [to Spain], people would look at me with fear, as if saying, ‘Take it easy, I'm not going to ask you anything’.” I know all too well what María is talking about.

I read elsewhere a stupidly cruel review of The Impossible. It more or less said it was a very melodramatic film about a family of tourists who had lost their entire luggage in the Boxing Day tsunami. The point the reviewer wanted to make was that hundreds of thousands of people died, that so many thousands of families lost loved ones, children, siblings, parents, grandparents… so why make a movie about a Western family whose five members survived? Other reviewers have drawn attention to the fact that the movie basically ignores the Thai victims by focusing only on a Western family. I will offer no opinion on that, because I have not seen the movie.

But I have watched the trailer of The Impossible. Online. All I can say is, the tsunami scenes are incredibly realistic. It is very much like that. But I also want to emphasise the 'incredible' aspect of it. Don’t forget it's a movie. Reality is a f**king lot worse.

Luckily for the director, María had a lot of input in the script. I guess we should not be surprised if it were awarded an Oscar for the FX.

But what I really wanted to consider was this: I wonder what we would say to each other, if one day I met María. I have seen her photograph: I have noticed how her eyes look somehow lost, like they're glancing at something that is not there. That look is vaguely familiar.

She still has all her three children. I have only two left.

On the morning of Boxing Day 2004 we were on a beautiful beach in New South Wales, thousands of kilometres away from the death and destruction that was taking place in the Indian Ocean. Clea was almost two years old; she was running on the white sand, running away from the waves that came too close, and she was giggling, giggling, like she always used to do.

I will not watch the movie. But it's nothing to do with the tsunami images, it's nothing to do with fear. The truth is I don't need a movie to remind me.

I guess I just don’t enjoy happy endings that much these days.


  1. I saw a trailer of the movie and all I could think about was Clea and all of your family and the permanent devastation. Since reading your blog, a tsunami seems very personal to me, not an abstract event that happens to other people.
    I don't know if I'll watch the movie or not, but I know what you mean about not enjoying happy endings these days. Believing in happy endings was part of my old life. I know now that nothing is certain, there are no guarantees and that change will happen, whether I want it or not.

    1. Thank you very much for commenting this post. I think it certainly takes some degree of bravery to express your reaction to the trailer in the context of my post. So thank you for that.
      While it is not my intention to dissuade people from watching the movie (I'm not in the business of telling anyone what to watch or not), I'm sure you'll agree that the trailer images are so realistic that they can be quite confronting. It is just a movie, of course. But not for me, it is not just a movie.


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