There is no denying the incredibly moving and emotional story of Bethany Hamilton. After surviving a shark attack that left her without her right arm, the teenager overcomes all odds, getting back in the water and up on her board to continue her dream as a pro-surfer. The story is a screenwriters dream, mixing will, determination and pure survival and pitting it in one of the most cinematic settings - the beach. But somewhere along the way director Sean McNamara missed his mark, forgetting the inspiration behind the story and leaving us with a chopped up telling that lacks heart, soul and continuity.
I will give credit to AnnaSophia Robb for her portrayal of Bethany. Holding her own around some of Hollywood's biggest heavyweights Robb is able to tear at your heart strings as she struggles with her new outlook on life. In a film surrounded with inconsistency, Robb is the diamond in the rough, saving the film from its potential demise.
Fans may also be interested to know that county singer and former American Idol winner Carrie Underwood makes her film debut here as Sarah, Bethany's church youth leader. Bethany credits her astonishing faith and positive outlook on the situation for her speedy recovery, making Sarah's role in the film instrumental. I won't go as far as to say that she nailed the part, however, for what its worth, she faired as I had expected (take that to mean whatever you'd like).
In terms of the story, I often felt as if I was watching a Lifetime made-for-TV movie. The film appeared to be stretched in order to achieve a particular length, the background characters are one-dimensional, and the struggles faced by Hamilton were rarely dwelled upon. It seemed that every time we witnessed a roadblock, it took only two or three minutes for the Hamilton family to find a clear path to victory. The story is in the courage and determination of our leading lady - the fact that most of the struggle was only touched upon rather than dove into was both frustrating and annoying.
Like I said, a great television movie of the week, a mediocre feature length film, it really is as simple as that.