The Impossible (M) 113min
Hundreds of thousands of people throughout Southeast Asia lost their lives in the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004.
This Spanish co-production depicts the terror and horrific aftermath through one family's true-life tale of loss, struggle and survival.
In casting Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts (the latter of whom is up for best-actress Oscar next month), the Spanish family becomes British, on holiday in coastal Thailand from expatriate life in Japan.
Your heart sinks as they and their three young sons are shown to the hotel.
Who could have imagined that the magnificent outlook from a beachfront bungalow would have such a downside?
The tsunami is horrifically spectacular, while overhead shots intermittently provide the context for what is sensibly a personal story.
With body horror to rival David Cronenberg or ER, Watts (who owns the first part of the film with a gut-grabbing performance) is pummelled and thrashed by Mother Nature.
The excellent local cast bolsters authenticity, particularly in a scene where two elderly Thais wordlessly tend to Watts' broken body.
Some may find it mawkish and the soaring strings a bit much, but powerful performances leave you with a sense of what really matters.
- Sunday Star Times