By: Russ Matthews
Whenever the media focuses on adventurers who choose to do something that pushes the barriers of human limits, there is a divided reaction.
This was the case when Jessica Watson announced that she was planning to circumnavigate the world at 16 years of age. As the world weighed in on the debate that ensued before her eventual journey, the teenager trained and prepared for the trip that would change her life and world.
Based on her memoir, True Spirit: The Aussie Girl Who Took On The World, Jessica (Teagan Croft) credits reading Jesse Martin’s book Lionheart: A Journey of the Human Spirit at 12 years of age for her inspiration to consider this feat. She did odd jobs at the docks and worked to get the sponsorship to earn the funds needed to make this all a reality. Since Jess had lived most of her life on the water, it was not a surprise to her parents, and they eventually warmed to the possibility of allowing her to attempt this extraordinary task. Despite opposition from within the media and general public, the young sailor finally took on the 24,285 nautical mile challenge that would mean she would be alone on the water in her trusted vessel, Ella’s Pink Lady. As she faced the forces of nature that would test her resolve, Jessica would go on to show the world that she could make this unbelievable feat a reality.
This Netflix production contains an incredible cast of Anna Paquin and Josh Lawson, who portrayed Jessica’s parents, and Cliff Curtis as her coach/mentor. Yet, like the true-to-life story relying solely on the shoulders of the teen, the film relies on the believability of Teagan Croft in the title role. The young Aussie does an admirable job of capturing the emotional and physical limits experienced by the youthful sailor. Even though the film’s overall experience has the feel of a sanitised, Disney production at times, the final product proves to be enjoyably family-friendly and inspirational, capturing Australia’s spirit along the way.
Many may continue to debate the ethical and parental limits that choices like this introduce; something is motivating to experience in this world that chooses to live life in the virtual. To see a young woman living out the singular focus of achieving this goal will cause audiences to see the seemingly unachievable tasks of life as achievable. Also, Jessica’s story shows the value of the support of family and mentors as an integral part of reaching such heights. The Ben Bryant character within the film was an amalgamation of different individuals who guided the teen throughout her years of training. Still, this role was essential for her to complete her goal.
Granted, there is solace in knowing the eventual outcome of Jessica Watson’s journey that took some of the tension of her more harrowing situations. Writer/director Sarah Spillane’s interpretation may not be as raw as expected in this modern cinematic era. Yet, it does capture the encouraging look behind the scenes of this remarkable woman and this genuinely Australian story.
Jessica Watson’s story shows the value of family and mentors in people’s lives. The people we are raised with can bring out the best and worst in our lives. Parents, siblings, and every other member of the family unit are aware of more about our history than we may care to know. They are the people who can remind us of our successes and our failures at the exact moment, merely by being in the room. This can cause a bittersweetness in life and can be encouraging and painful at the same time.
Interestingly, the Bible’s God had the best intentions for our home life from the beginning of time. The original goal was for families to live as a cohesive unit that works together by celebrating and utilising the various gifts that each member provides.
Even though this reality does not seem accurate in many people’s lives today, it does not mean we can not try to reflect that reality now. Within this fallen existence, family members can strive to encourage each other. Encouraging each other when times are tough, cheering for our family when life is going well, and speaking the truth into the lives of those we love with grace, love, and mercy.
Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6
Article supplied with thanks to City Bible Forum.
About the author: Russ Matthews is a film critic at City Bible Forum and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and sparking spiritual conversations.