Sean McNamara’s latest film, Soul Surfer, a new release about the life of one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb), does an awful job of presenting a compelling story.

A passionate, talented surfer, Hamilton recovered from a shark attack — in which she lost an arm — to become professional. Her story is inspiring, but if the film touches viewers, it does so in spite of poor acting and a disjointed plot.

The beginning of the film depicts Hamilton and her best friend, Alana Blanchard (Lorraine Nicholson), surfing as young girls, and then as adolescents, competing for titles and occasionally for boys’ affections.

Unfortunately, this material dragged on and was presented in a way that only a particularly shallow-minded 13-year-old girl would find intriguing.

Every time the girls went into the water in the opening scenes, there would be some kind of ominous crashing of the waves or another effect that would suggest trouble looming in the waters underneath them. You could just tell that something was going to happen, and with each moment that passed without any kind of revelation, I grew more and more agitated.

Finally, the shark attack was shown in all its gruesome detail — a bit too much detail for my taste, and I am ordinarily not at all squeamish about blood.

After that point, the film became slightly more tolerable, as the focus really shifted to the ups and downs that Hamilton faced in getting back out on the water and dealing with the trauma of losing her arm. My personal favorite scene of the movie — and one of the few places where I forgave the poor production of the film — came when Hamilton reached out to victims of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in a poignant and unforgettable moment.

While the intrigue of Hamilton’s story kept me watching, I still found the action a bit slow-moving at times. It also seemed that, rather than following any kind of plot, the producers simply strung together a bunch of scenes that fit around a loose theme. The time frame of the scenes was also unclear and uneven at times.

On the whole, I was underwhelmed by the performance of the actors in this film. While a few, including Robb, approached something above mediocrity, most of the actors did not seem genuine at all in their performances. Considering how traumatic many of the occurrences in the movie are, the display of emotion by the characters was very, very understated.

In short, Soul Surfer was not a movie that left me satisfied. While I encourage anyone to watch it if they have time — after all, Hamilton’s story is inspiring and worth taking in — the movie is far from an instant classic.

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