We all know that life can change in an instant, but rarely do we envisage it’ll happen to us. But what happens when it does? What happens when within seconds, life will never be the same. What next? For those of you who have followed the remarkable story of Penguin Bloom, a baby magpie who was rescued by the Bloom family in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and went on to profoundly changed their life, you’ll be eagerly anticipating the launch of the new film Penguin Bloom on January 21, starring Naomi Watts and Andrew Lincoln.
For those of you who are yet to discover Sam and Cameron Bloom’s story, here’s a teaser. Over eight years ago, Sam was living her dream life by the beach, a nurse who was raising her three boys and spending her time running, swimming, bike riding and surfing every chance she had. Yet, in an instant, everything changed in 2013 on a family holiday in Thailand. Sam fell through a rotten balcony railing and crashed six metres onto the concrete below.
Her injuries left her paralysed from the chest down and the early days after her accident were understandably the darkest of Sam’s life until Penguin arrived. Sam said, “Penguin was the guardian angel that saved my life. I found that helping someone else feel better was the best way to help myself feel better.”
Meanwhile, her husband Cameron had documented the family’s experience through thousands of images and videos, which led to a book, Penguin Bloom, written in collaboration with New York Times-bestselling Australian author Bradley Trevor Greive. A second book – Sam Bloom: Heartache & Birdsong – by Cameron, Sam and Bradley followed. And this month, on January 21, Penguin Bloom, the feature film launches. And it’s utterly brilliant. And heart-wrenching. And touching. All will leave you laughing, crying and feeling all the feels. Most of all, it’ll show you how hope and love is what gets us all through.
Here, our managing editor – who is just back from maternity leave – Gemma Dawkins interviews Sam and Cameron Bloom about the film.
Penguin Bloom opens on 21 January 2021. Watch the trailer here
Go to www.penguinbloom.com
Top: Naomi Watts, as Sam Bloom. Bottom: Andrew Lincoln plays Cameron Bloom
What is the most powerful moment in the film for you Sam?
Probably one of the most confronting scenes for me was when the kids were sick. And I couldn’t just jump up and be there for them. You see this in the film, and that actually happened. I just remember laying there, crying, and feeling so guilty. You feel like a terrible mum because you can’t actually be there for your kids. It always makes me cry watching that scene.
I imagine watching the whole film was probably a very emotional experience, and maybe quite surreal. What was it like sitting down to watch it for the first time?
Sam: It was surreal, that’s for sure. It’s crazy to think that someone wanted to make a movie about us, we’re just a normal family.
Cam: We were in LA when we saw it for the first time. We couldn’t believe that our story had gone all the way and made it into a film, really. And even better, it’s really cool that they’re amazing actors.
Sam: We’re so lucky, super fortunate.
Sam, is it still painful to think about your accident, and do you think about it a lot?
Sam: I don’t necessarily think about the actual accident because I actually don’t remember it, but I still have days I find are really hard. Some are bittersweet, because if it’s a beautiful day and the beach is looking gorgeous, I know I would have gone for a surf. I have bad days, good days, good days, bad days.
Do you have any coping strategies that you implemented to help deal with those moments?
Sam: Try and keep busy. I think that’s it for me. If I’m bored, then I just sit here and it kind of gets miserable. I like to keep busy and exercise.
What did your boys think of the film?
Sam: They loved it, but again, it’s weird. They still can’t believe that we have a film made about our family. I was talking to Ollie, our youngest the other night and he goes, “It’s so weird that someone’s made a film about us.” I’m like, I know. They’re excited, so excited.
Cam: I think they’re just really looking forward to getting some joy from that experience. It’s a family story, so I think it will resonate with so many people.
How do you hope that people will feel watching the film?
Cam: I think they will feel moved, most definitely, and that people will go, wow. That could happen to us. And what would I do in that situation? I think people will project a whole lot of their own experiences in our film. But I guess what we would like them to take away from the film is that anything can happen unexpectedly as it happened to Sam in a blink of an eye. So, make the most of every opportunity and live your life fully.
Do you feel the same Sam?
Sam: Definitely. It captures the power of nature and animals and family, and how, everybody has a story. For most people, a tragic event will happen in your life, and the love of family and friends can make it so much more bearable. I always say to young people as well, don’t put your dreams on hold, you don’t want to have regrets. You don’t want to have some awful thing happen and then you’re like, I wish I had done that. I always say, just do it. That’s why I’m so thankful that up until the accident, I had pretty much-done everything I wanted to do, in terms of traveling and we had a great life.
Naomi Watts played you in the film. Did you spend a lot of time together and did you feel that you got to really connect with her in order to have her understand who you are and your story?
Sam: Definitely. She’s the most down to earth, beautiful person. As soon as we met, I did just feel this connection with her. I wasn’t intimidated. She’s this big movie star, yet she’s so lovely. I used to write down a lot of things in a diary – there were a lot of negative thoughts and a lot of hate and swear words, and things like I wish I had died – it was very dark. And Cam would never read it and I sent it to Naomi so she could get inside my head. I think that really helped her because so many of her performances were astonishing. She looked so angry and so sad, but it was so subtle. It was just this look that she had. She wasn’t going around screaming and carrying on. It was just this look, and you can see how ripped off she felt. It was perfect. She was incredible.
What about you Cam? How did you feel you were portrayed by Andrew Lincoln?
Cam: I think when we initially had conversations together, we just talked about what it was like for me at that time. He projected when he was playing me, his relationship with his own wife and how he would have dealt with something as tragic as I had to, and so he understood what it was like. He’s a similar kind of guy to me, we both love nature, we both love surfing – he was perfect.
What about the other star of the film? Penguin Bloom? How many Magpie's did you need on set?
Sam: Seven or eight. They all had a different role as well. Some were really good at crying, some were quite affectionate. It was great to watch.
Cam: There was quite a lot and one of them was even dropped off to us to look after. We called her Hollywood.
Animals can have such a profound impact on our lives in general. I think that Penguin’s probably the most unusual one I've heard. Why do you think Penguin came into your lives?
Sam: Maybe she is meant to come into our lives and change it for the better.
Cam: I’m glad she did. I said to Sam the other day, imagine if we’d never found Penguin, we would never have had the books and then the movie. Penguin completely changed our life.
Do you feel like she was the turning point for you?
Sam: Definitely. She helped me get my confidence back and realise that I was actually capable of looking after something.
Do you think she's given you a different perspective on your role as a mother?
Sam: I don’t feel like I’m the same mum and I’m not the mum that I thought I would be. I thought I’d grow up with the kids still surfing and traveling and going on adventures and just doing fun things like that. That’s changed a lot.
We often want a happy ending when it comes to films and media and this story doesn't necessarily have a happy ending in the traditional sense. Do you feel like that's an important message to portray?
Sam: We didn’t want it all Hollywoody and all perfect at the end. I mean, it does get better. Obviously, when I first came home, that was probably my darkest period. As time went on, I did get a bit happier and found kayaking, and then we had Penguin and life got better. It’s hopeful, but it’s not perfect. I still, as I said, have good days and bad days, but it just shows hope.
Do you think that hope is the all-encompassing message of the film?
Sam: It was about love – love from family and friends and nature.
Cam: Also, to make the most of stuff.