Galileo, a smart pelican which actually proved the validity of a law of Physics, that all objects, regardless of their masses, free fall in the same speed. A volcano, a sea lion that plays football, a fierce-looking but friendly lizard, a comfortable wooden cabin furnished with solar-powered gadgets, the Internet and satellite phone — no TV though — those are some of the amusements you’d see on Nim’s Island. Located on 22-degree South, so and so degree East, on the Pacific, this isolated island has long become a home for Nim, an 11-year old girl, and his father, Jack Rusoe, a marine biologist who does plankton research on the local seas.
Growing up in the middle of nowhere, Nim becomes extremely independent. Chopping off woods on her own using a relatively large machete (definitely not designed for users of her age); starting fire from scratch, just like the cavemen did; cooking daily meals using ingredients found in her surrounding nature — mixes of ground beets, fibrous leaves and extra worm proteins (eughh!); climbing on a steep and dangerous cliff on safety harness, like a pro; or swimming in and diving into the ocean with her state-of-the-art scuba device — her pet seal; Nim outperforms most of us, in her capability to adapt very well in nature — something our modern world does not teach us on daily basis. Perhaps little Tarzan would be a perfect match to Nim!
Unlike the “monkey boy” (a.k.a. Tarzan), Nim however is pretty much well-read. She gains knowledge of the outside world from her collection of encyclopaedias and story books, delivered to the island every few months, together with their stocks of domesticated, nursery seeds such as tomatoes and carrots. Jack, Nim’s dad, can definitely be held responsible for Nim’s intelligence and vast knowledge, in addition to her undying creativity and practicality. Being a single father, although is certainly an undesirable situation, has only brought Jack closer to her daughter. Their relationship is not a rigid father-daughter bond, but also encompasses casual, healthy friendship between the duo.
One day, their few-monthly order came and Nim’s long-awaited sequel of Alex Rover’s adventure book arrived. She immediately found excitement and became occupied with chapters of it. As she read the stories, she began to imagine the scenes vividly, in her bedroom, as if Alex Rover’s undertaking were occurring within her vicinity. Immersed in her 3D fantasy, she enjoyed the adventure in between her day-to-day chores.
No one, including Nim, would have imagined that the real ‘Alex Rover’ is far less qualified from being the courageous, heroic cowboy featured in the sequels.
Who’s Alex Rover?
‘Alex Rover’, who is in the real world a ‘she’, is the writer of the adventure book, and was actually named Alexandra Rover by birth. Alexandra writes sequels of Alex Rover’s adventure from her fully-equipped study, so equipped that she does not have to go out for errands, nor to simply revitalise her writer’s brain by exercising outdoors. Her four-month borderline agoraphobia has prevented her from even a single step outside her door, to pick up letters in her mailbox. Her paranoia with the consequences of physical contacts with outdoor environment, including with the people, has not only stopped her from going out, it also has impaired her willingness to get in contact with mere delivery boys.
Alexandra : You don’t need to see me. Just drop the Purell at the door!
Topped with her OCD, Alexandra’s instability has made the character ‘Alex Rover’, the fictitious male adventurer, come to live, conversing with and responding to her wherever she goes.
Imaginary Alex : What are you afraid of?
Alexandra : Everything!
Knowing these facts about Alexandra, one could only wonder how she was then able to write such worldwide best-sellers, translated into 21 languages. Well, you and I would surely know the answer… Yes! The so-called Internet, and books, has given a significant contribution to her success, not to mention her literary skill and well-animated power of imagination, which has in fact established a two-way communication between her self and her imaginary friend. How in the world would such combination fail to excel!
Stuck in her writing, Alexandra e-mailed Jack Rusoe to inquire about the volcano he had once studied. Nim replied to her question because Jack was away — out in the sea, doing research on a presumably undiscovered species of plankton, to be named the “protozoan Nim”. Thinking that Nim was Jack’s associate, Alexandra’s inquiries became difficult to address, so much so that Nim made her way to the volcano’s peak to find out the answer herself.
A sudden storm that engulfed the area broke down Jack’s ship; he was stranded on the sea, unable to return to Nim on the promised day. Nim’s worries grew, not only for not knowing her dad’s whereabout, but also for the eminent threats of daily storm and supposed invaders. (Are you kidding me? Invaders? On these days? Well, it was Nim’s outstanding fiction that led her to believe that her island was gonna be taken over).
Anyway, all these complications urged Nim to ask Alex Rover, who was actually the coward Alexandra, to come and help her safe-guarding her au naturale small island.
Imaginary Alex : Be the hero of your own life story.
Alexandra : Don’t hand me that line — I wrote that line
Encouraged by her imaginary friend, Alex Rover, and with a degree of empathy to Nim’s situation, Alexandra fearfully made her way across the oceans, taking various means of transport she had never once committed to venture on. Cab, airplane, local minibus, chopper, cruise ship, and worse, rowing boat — all seemed to require her immediate, unwilling attention in the midst of her panic attacks.
Ship captain : What on earth are you doing?
Alexandra : I’m just having a nervous breakdown.
Meanwhile, Jack — Nim’s determined father — attempted to fix his boat, and even created an unconventional, improvised propeller, to push his way through, home. All with the considerate help of Galileo (the pelican, not the scientist!), which managed to locate his whereabout and sent him tools he needed to get out of this mess.
Regardless of Nim’s initial rejection to the uncourageous, need-saving Alexandra, she bonded with her in one night. Finally, Jack sailed home in his modified water craft, looking like a victorious Robinson Crusoe.
Having reunited with his daughter, Jack then realised Alexandra’s presence. Introducing each other, sparks ignite between them and Nim could only wonder what’s next.
Nim : The writer, and the scientist. That’s how their story began. How it ends, exactly? Nobody knows.
All in all…
At this point I am just aware that, unlike my usual movie reviews, I’ve briefly retold the whole “Nim’s Island”. Sorry for that! Nevertheless, to my defence, the movie was a 2008’s and some of you might have not watched, nor even acknowledged its existence. I myself only discovered it upon my husband’s feedback regarding the educative and fun nature of the movie, and after seeing it, I’d definitely suggest “Nim’s Island” to be included in your family’s movie library.
Adapted from a novel of the same title, “Nim’s Island” is an excellent entertainment for children of all ages, including the young adults. “Seize the day,” was perhaps the main message the writer wished to put across. Not only children, all family members are encouraged to be adventurous in life and seek for the unlimited possibilities out there.
Character-wise, the production team has done a great job in pairing up Jodie Foster (as Alexandra) and Abigail Breslin (as Nim). Although I was initially a bit reluctant watching Jodie Foster, after my traumatic movie experience with “The Brave One”, in which her brilliant image was tainted with her daring, ‘open’ act (read: nude sex), I had to compliment her for cleverly representing the agoraphobic Alexandra throughout her upmost, unrehearsed adventure. In fact, I can’t figure anyone else who could play Alexandra better than Jodie Foster did. (Hmmm… Perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow or Anne Hathaway could!) As for Nim’s part, none would be as innocent yet smart-capable as Abigail. Besides, she’s most famous of all actresses of her age. *grins*
Jack’s role, on the other hand, can be played by almost anyone in the dictionary of Hollywood’s middle-aged men. Yet I guess Gerard Butler is the best cowboy-looking guy they could secure. On a second thought, is there another actor who could possibly be a father and a courageous adventurer at the same time? (I know! Brendan Fraser! But is he better than Butler? Not necessarily).
What makes “Nim’s Island” unique, despite its medium to slow tempo which may not appeal to most children unless their parents help boost the excitement, is how each character’s experience is boasted not only by portrayal of vivid imaginations, but also scenarios of unlikely events. For example, exaggeration to Alexandra’s spontaneity of jumping into a life boat in the middle of a stormy sea; Galileo’s (the pelican) intuition of picking just the right tools used to fix a boat; and Jack’s rafting home venture are among the least conceivable ideas.
All in all, “Nim’s Island” is still a recommended family entertainment. On the scale of 10, it’s a better 6. So, do enjoy watching Nim on the volcano, hanging on the cliff, climbing on coconut trees, hovering across the woods, swimming freely in the ocean, releasing turtle’s hatchling into the sea, and other amazing adventure of Nim, on her lovely island.
Phew, finally… I can’t believe this piece is so long that I took more than three working days completing it, in between my official writing jobs and household duties.