Soul Surfer is an inspiring movie based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton, an extremely talented surfer whose career was interrupted by an accident: while surfing she was attacked by a shark and lost an arm. At the time she was 13 years old. This young woman, barely out of childhood found, in a seemingly devastating event, a new horizon for her life.
The movie first introduces Bethany’s family. They are a Christian family who pray and celebrate their faith. Their strong unity is obvious even after the tensions which Bethany’s accident brings. For them God is not an add-on or just lip-service, but a true basis for daily life.
Undoubtedly the turning point in Bethany’s life is the loss of her left arm. Her professional surfing success was starting to mean that she had to sacrifice other important things, such as the volunteer work to which she was committed. The accident changes her viewpoint, and leads her to value more accurately what is really important in life.
The question which Bethany asks herself, with understandable anguish, show us the plot’s nucleus: “How can this be God’s Plan for me? I don’t understand!” The question reveals, firstly, the intention – not always easy – to illuminate life from a supernatural perspective. Bethany’s confusion and worry, bordering on despair, is understandable up to a point.
This question leads into one of the movie’s other main themes, the viewpoint we have in our lives, and how sometimes, buried in the daily routine, we can lose sight of the essential. How often do we need to leave (or be dragged out of) our usual routine or comfort zone in order to discover that we have lost sight of what is most important. As Soul Surfer so strongly expresses, Bethany’s accident was an opportunity to take stock of her life from a broader perspective, and from this viewpoint – which is nothing more or less than the effort to see things with God’s eyes – to reconsider what really gives meaning and value to the daily happenings of our lives.
Interestingly, the turning point in Bethany’s life begins with the shark attack but ends on a mission trip to Thailand, where she is able to help the victims of the tragic tsunami which took place in 2004. Through giving herself to others, in helping those who are so much worse off than she is, the young surfer experiences the great joy of giving to others, discovering a greater horizon which can be reached by anyone, even those with physical limitations. Love and self-giving, and what her example of struggle and hope mean for many people, mark a new path in her life. As she reflects looking back on this whole experience, she was able with just one arm to embrace more people that she was able to with two.
God works in mysterious ways, she concludes, bearing witness with her life to the fact that, when open to Him, we not only find meaning in many difficult events of our lives, but discover that they can bear fruit for those around us. This was no easy task for Bethany, and the effort and dedication which she recovers give us pause for thought, given the bourgeois spirit of our times in which effort and dedication are smothered by comfort and pleasure-seeking.
Perhaps the best summary of the movie is that which Bethany Hamilton gives on her own life: “for me, knowing that God loves me and that he has a plan for my life, that no shark can take away and no contest result can shake, is like having solid rock underneath me. Bad things are bound to happen to everyone. That’s life. Here’s my advice: don’t put all your hope and faith into something that could suddenly and easily disappear. And honestly, that’s almost anything. The only thing that will never go away, that will never fail you, is God and your faith in him. All I can say is He gives me a really strong foundation for everything I do in life”.
Soul Surfer is a beautiful, inspiring film, which reminds us of everything that we can achieve when we open our lives to God and seek to respond to his Plan, trusting in Him above all when the path seems darkest. It is also a great homage to the family united and founded in God, as nobody is called to walk alone on this earthly pilgrimage.
This review was written by Mauricio Artieda and originally published on our Spanish site.