Soul Surfer – Movie Review

Written By: Daniel Gregory - Aug• 18•11
The other week my wife and I had the opportunity to see Soul Surfer. We had heard about the movie for a while and were interested in seeing it. The reason why our interest was peaked in the film is because it was promoted and advertised as an uplifting movie which promoting the Christian faith and had a positive message to it.

The movie is about a girl named Bethany Hamilton, who at the age of thirteen, lost her arm to a Tiger shark attack near her home off the coast of Hawaii. The film shows her near death experience in losing her arm but mainly focuses on her struggles in life after the attack. The bulk of the movie centers around Bethany’s journey from a girl whose passion in life was to be a great surfer, to a girl who is downtrodden and defeated because she no longer can do things she use to, to a girl who comes to the realization that life is about more than surfing and that because she has suffered the loss in her arm God has uniquely equipped her to inspire, touch, and reach others far better than if she had two arms.

The movie itself has some well known actors in its cast. Dennis Quad, Helen Hunt, Carrie Underwood, and AnnaSophia Robb as Bethany Hamilton play the lead roles. All portray their characters very well on screen. On a personal note and miniture rant let say I personally disliked the decision to cast Carrie Underwood as Bethany’s church’s youth director. I understand it was done because of her fan base and reputation as being a Christian which most likely translated into ticket sales. However, I believe that there are some better choices to play a character that represented a large part of the Christian and faith element in the movie. To me being a country music artist that sings about shooting whiskey, keying a boyfriends car, and basically committing many other acts of vandalism should not be portrayed as a youth director in a church. There are numerous other artists in the realm of Christian Contemporary music that could have easily filled the role of Sarah Hill in the movie. That’s my personal opinion on that  matter.

Rants aside I truly enjoyed this movie. The messages of this movie are hard hitting, inspiriting, and challenging to anyone who watches it. Of the numerous themes intertwined within the plot of Soul Surfer, I found two that were quite touching and relevant. First, there is a message of hope. It is a the message that God is able to use the horrible circumstances in our lives to do a greater good than we ever thought possible. Within this message people are able to find an answer the question of why do bad things happen to good people as well as a challenge for others to stop focusing on their own problems and look for purpose in their circumstances. Another message prevalent in this movie was that there is a greater purpose in life beyond our own selfish dreams. In the course of the story Bethany found that life is about more than just surfing and winning the next competition. Both of these messages are inspiring and challenging as we all face times in our life when we struggle with personal selfishness and self pity rather than living a life in which we serve a purpose greater than ourselves.

Overall Soul Surfer is very successful in communicating a story of inspiring faith, hope, and determination to overcome incredible tragedy and circumstances. This movie gives its viewers much to think about, cry about, and discuss with others. My hope is that in watching Soul Surfer the viewer might be drawn to a better understanding of the life that God has called all Christians to live and look to Him to find their purpose in this life. I feel that Bible study groups, youth groups, as well families and friends could get into some very meaningful discussions after watching this movie.

Another noteworthy attribute of this movie is that it is wholesome and free from the junk that plagues the vast majority of films at the box office today. Not to say that Soul Surfer is absolutely free from anything that could be considered questionable. It is the intentional absence of foul language, provocative scenes, and other such content that would have been so easy to add into this picture that is refreshing. You are able to see during the movie that the intention of the film was not to entice the eyes to lust after beautiful people but to draw you into the story that was being played out before your viewer’s eyes.

What you do see on the screen is an intentional effort to portray the events that occurred in Bethany Hamilton’s life in Hawaii in a wholesome and accurate fashion. Some would not approve of the fact that there are numerous scenes where many guys and girls are in swimsuits but what would expect from a movie about a girl who is a surfer? What can be noticed is there is no effort made to portray what is worn as sensual or provocative.

On screen Bethany’s parents are shown to have a strong marriage with a deep faith in God. Along with this Bethany’s father is shown to be dedicated to his family and who was a loving leader, a rarity if not altogether unheard of on the silver screen. I personally found the presence of this good Christian family dynamic genuinely uplifting as I know that so many are ignorant of what a family should be and could be. The rest of Bethany’s family is also portrayed as loving and supportive throughout the film.

The faith elements are handled very well with the character of Bethany’s youth director being depicted in a very good light. She is built up as intelligent, genuine, and who is patiently pointing her in the right direction though at first Bethany resists this advice. This was refreshing to see as well because more rare than a good father in a movie is a dedicated Christian who is cast as being correct in their views. Though I might disagree with choice of who played the part I believe this movie nailed the picture of a Christian youth worker on the head because I have know many who are the same. They are genuine in their love of God and others, they are intelligent, and they patiently point others in the right direction.

The storyline was very well written and this movie draws you into the story quite easily. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself crying through many points in this movie because it is set up to move you and bring out your emotional side.

Overall, I greatly enjoyed this movie and it will probably make its way into my family’s DVD collection. It is a rare find in a movie today and my only hope is that Hollywood would take notice that many Americans do desire to have family friendly films with uplifting faith based messages in them. I would recommend this movie to adults, teens, and most older children (the shark bite scene is a little scary along with hospital emergency room scenes after it). It provides wonderful material for great discussions on life and faith and can be used in numerous ways as a teaching aid or jump off point for many topics. This movie is also a great film to just sit and watch as it is compelling, well written, and beautifully filmed.

If you are a parent or teen who has certain particular standards about what you or your children watch and want to know specifics about th content of this movie as well as hundreds of others I would recommend a wonderful site called This website gives a strait forward description of the content of movies. To look at the Soul Surfer page at kinds-in-mind please click HERE.

If you have seen Soul Surfer tell me what you thought of the movie and my review below.


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