Juan Antonio Bayona's The Impossible depicts a tale of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in the hope of eliciting a tsunami of tears from the audience; I don't object to the occasional bout of emotional manipulation, but I was so distracted by the ham-fisted filmmaking in other arenas to be able to subject myself to it. Bayona lurches between scenes, aiming for wholly different effects with each sequence, and often with the full force of his directorial abilities - there is utterly nothing subtle about this film. It is as he intends it to be, whether harrowing and sad, brutal and disturbing, fast-paced and tense, or uplifting and inspiring. He's jammed so many different movies into one chaotic, hysterical mess. Just as the waves batter their victims with debris, we too are lobbed with a brash, rather indistinctive score, sub-Lubezki-esque cinematography and crass, inelegant dialogue. Elements of the film do have a brutish power, though, and the recreation of the tsunami, if unimaginative, is respectful of those who experienced it, in its angry vividness. Bayona is in finest form when torturing us, and his characters, and The Impossible is onto a winner from the moment the wave hits to the moment young Lucas leaves his mother, and the sap starts to seep through. Naomi Watts spends most of the film in physical agony, which is familiar ground for her, and she excels once again, fully settling into the role as soon as she's been battered about a bit. Things drag once the focus shifts away from her - really, the less injured the characters are, the less interesting. But the whole leading cast is more than able, and deserved of more than this guilelessly made soap opera, from a director who's capable of much better.