When I went to watch Dolphin Tale I never expected it to be a story about living with a disability.
Dolphin Tale is a film based on a true story. It is about the rehabilitation of a cheeky amputee dolphin. It stars Harry Connick Junior, Ashley Judd and young Nathan Gamble.
A female dolphin is found washed up on a Florida beach, tangled in a crab net. The staff at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida name her Winter. She undergoes rehabilitation in a large pool at the marine hospital, with staff watching her around the clock.
Nathan Gamble plays Sawyer, a shy 11 year old. He helped free Winter on the beach by cutting her free from the ropes. Sawyer finds helping in Winter's recovery is more educating and fulfilling than summer school. He visits the hospital each day, helping to keep Winter afloat and fed. His care of the dolphin leads the aquarium staff to call him Winter's mother. At the same time Sawyer also sparks up a close friendship with Hazel, the vet's daughter.
Winter is given an artificial tail created by prosthetic surgeon Dr Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman). Many tail prototypes are created but they cause Winter discomfort. Eventually an artificial tail with a silicone sleeve allows Winter to move her tail up and down.
There is a strong (and unexpected) similarity between the story of the dolphin and Sawyer's cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell). He is a young soldier who returns from war with an injury. Kyle was a college swimming champion who hoped to compete in the Olympics. A war injury leaves him with temporary paralysis in his right leg. He also needs to walk with a brace. Winter's recovery helps Kyle to feel more positive.
Winter and Kyle
Although simplified, Dolphin Tale shows the difficulties faced by both humans and animals to adjust to acquired disabilities. Just as Kyle struggles with his pride and physical capabilities, Winter physically struggles with the loss of her tail and the initial prosthetic attachments.
Dolphin Tale also explores the way people view disability. The vet and the aquarium's board members believe no one will want to visit a dolphin with a disability. Winter's value is only realised when a young girl who is an amputee comes to visit the dolphin.
Dolphin Tale was inspiring and moving. I think it's a great movie to teach children about disability.
Clearwater Marine Aquarium has a website where you can find out more about Winter and the movie. There is also a web-cam of her swimming. www.seewinter.com/
Dolphin Tale is showing in limited Australian cinemas now.