It is devastating whenever something tragic and unexpected happens, but when tragedy hits during the holidays, normally a time of celebration and good cheer, the impact seems even greater. As a nation, we know this feeling all too well due to the recent events in Connecticut, but this was sadly not the first time an unthinkable event occurred during a time when people are usually focusing on giving thanks and looking back over the year. In 2004, a deadly tsunami hit the coast of South East Asia, demolishing buildings, land, and people caught in its path. While this kind of natural event is much different than the harm caused by a person, the emotions related to suddenly losing, or being separated from, loved ones become the universal tenants of these awful situations.
The images and stories that came out in the wake of this tsunami spoke for themselves, but The Impossible adds a personal touch by taking audiences inside the experience through the real life story of a family who was vacationing over the holidays in Thailand when the unthinkable struck and their lives were forever changed. The idea of a family being physically separated by powers beyond their control is enough to bring out one’s emotions and get your pulse racing which makes the task of a composer, in this case Fernando Velázquez, all the more daunting because music is not necessary to conjure up the emotions being felt and displayed on screen.
Velázquez could have easily played directly into these moments by adding to them or manipulating their impact, but the raw performances from not just Naomi Watts (Maria) and Ewan McGregor (Henry) as parents dealing with their biggest nightmare, the loss of their children, but their children (played by Tom Holland, Samuel Joslin and Oaklee Pendergast) also delivered stripped down performances that did not require musical assistance to convey exactly how they were feeling on screen. Velázquez wisely created a score that stands back and lets these performances shine and when the music does seep through, it does so to gently round out the scene.
Despite taking place in Thailand, Velázquez does not inject music from the region into his score keeping it simple, but still impactful, through classic instrumentation that never overpowers, instead working to slowly guide audiences through this story and this struggle. Velázquez holds back during pivotal moments such as when Henry is finally able to call home and the reality of what has happened to him and his family hits him all at once. Light piano and restrained strings slowly surround this emotional moment and enhance McGregor’s palpable performance rather than draw attention away from it.
The Impossible is filled with quiet, subtle moments such as Maria trying to comfort her eldest son and the score never rushes in to drown her out as she tries to soothe him. Obviously the biggest moment of the film is when the tsunami hits and when it does, no music plays allowing the crushing, terrifying sound of the waves to take over as they push forward and sweep away everyone, and everything, in their path. The sounds of people getting tossed around in the water as they struggle to find the surface needed no additional sound and allowing the natural elements to take center stage made the moments when Velázquez’s score is present a much needed relief and comfort.
With track titles that reflect poignant moments on screen, it is clear Velázquez selected key scenes to add music to whether the scene was hopeful, tragic, moving, or desperate. When listened to outside of the film, the tracks are familiar and bring back the feelings of those scenes, making the score all the more stunning as you realize what a subtle impact it truly had on the overall effect film.
Music is a paramount feature in films and necessary to keep scenes from feeling flat, but it is a true accomplishment to create beautiful and moving music while at the same time keeping it from overshadowing a story that is already moving on its own. Sometimes it is the music you do not necessarily focus on or find yourself drawn to in a film that is the most impressive because it works in the shadows to fill in the blanks, leaving an almost subconscious impression on listeners. Velázquez score for The Impossible does just that and leaves you with a true sense of tragedy, but also hope.
The soundtrack for The Impossible is available through Quartet Records.
1. “The Impossible Main Titles”
2. “The Best Holiday Season Ever”
3. “Is It Over?”
4. “Even If It’s The Last Thing We Do”
5. “Kem Kang Noi”
6. “My Boys, I Cannot See Them”
7. “Go And Help People”
8. “I Will Bring Your “Pappa” Here”
9. “Is There Somebody We Could Call?”
10. “We’ll Drive You Somewhere Safer”
11. “I Won’t Stop Looking Until I Find Them”
12. “But She’ll Be OK, Right?”
13. “Mom, Guess What I Just Saw Outside?”
14. “Let’s Go, No Need To Wait”
15. “Am I Dead?”
16. “I Have A Family Too”
17. “He Looked So Happy”
18. “The Impossible End Titles”
All songs on this soundtrack composed by Fernando Velázquez.