The playwright Tennessee Williams wrote: "A high station in life is earned by the gallantry with which appalling experiences are survived with grace." That's a good summary of what happens in Soul Surfer, the true story of a Hawaiian teenager who demonstrates great courage in the face of a tragic setback to her dreams.
Tom (Dennis Quaid) and Cheri (Helen Hunt) are the avid surfing parents of Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) and her two brothers. Riding the waves on the Kauai Coast is the one thing they all have in common. Bethany and her best friend Alana (Lorraine Nicholson) are so good at surfing that they regularly take part in national competitions. These events become a family affair with both sets of parents and other relatives cheering the girls on as they glide on the big swells and make the most out of their balance and strength.
One day while they are out surfing with Alana's father (Kevin Sorbo), Bethany stops to rest on her board and a 14-foot tiger shark comes out of nowhere and devours her arm. Thanks to the quick and confident ministrations of Alana's dad, her life is saved even after she loses an incredible amount of blood. At the hospital, the doctor (Craig T. Nelson) is just about ready to perform knee surgery on Tom when the ambulance with Bethany arrives. She stuns her family when she announces that she intends to keep on surfing. But at home, Bethany's inability to perform simple functions with only one arm is deeply troubling to her parents and brothers.
The family are Christians and attend church regularly. Seeking to understand why this has happened to her, Bethany seeks counsel from Sarah (Carrie Underwood), who leads the youth group. This wise advisor tells Bethany that she doesn't know why this happened but she is confident that God will help her make the most out of it. Bethany rejects a prosthetic arm and returns to competition but is not able to stop from being battered by the waves. In addition, she has to contend with Malia Birch (Sonya Balmores), a highly talented rival.
Sean McNamara directs Soul Surfer with élan and fills the screen with incredible images of the blue waters and the rigors of competition. In comparison to other faith-based movies which have hammered home Christian dogmas, this one lightly depicts the importance of belief in the lives of one family as they struggle to cope with Bethany's disability. On a trip with her Christian youth group to Phuket, Thailand to assist victims of the 2004 tsunami, Bethany realizes that she has been called to inspire others with her courage under pressure. And at the Rip Curl Nationals, she comes to see that other things matter more than winning.
Soul Surfer is the ideal family film depicting the values and virtues of family solidarity in the face of constantly changing challenges.
Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes; three behind-the-scenes featurettes; a documentary "Heart of a Soul Surfer"; and a featurette "Bethany Hamilton on Professional Surfing."