BASED on a remarkable true story, Winter the dolphin has succeeded where many animals have fallen short, successfully stealing the spotlight away from screen stars Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr and Kris Kristofferson.
Found fighting for her life after being caught in the ropes of a crab trap in Florida, the young bottlenose dolphin – who plays herself in the film – was discovered by young boy Sawyer Nelson (Nathan Gamble), who soon calls for medical services.
Winter is rescued and taken to Clearwater Marine Hospital, which is run by dedicated marine biologist Clay Haskett (Harry Connick Jr) and his wise-speaking father Reed (Kris Kristofferson).
Because of the severe injuries and infection suffered to Winter’s tail, the life-changing decision is made to ‘amputate’ her tail, increasing the odds against her survival.
“How’s she going to live if she can’t swim?” says Sawyer, to which Reed replies, “You can’t give up on her.”
In addition to that, the practice is already stretched financially, and board members are deciding whether or not the centre is worth supporting, especially with their new patient, whose medicine and care are using up a wealth of resources and finances.
“No dolphin has ever been known to lose its entire tail, and survive,” says the head of the board.
Paralleling Winter’s tale is the human story of Sawyer’s cousin Kyle (Austin Stowell).
Once a champion swimmer and now enlisted in the army, his dream to compete in the Olympics comes to a brisk end after an explosion affects his right leg.
So when Sawyer meets prosthetics expert Dr Cameron McCarthy (Morgan Freeman) who attempts to help Kyle through his injuries, he wonders if the doctor could also help make a prosthetic tail for Winter.
“Trying to put a tail on a fish? Nobody in his right mind would even try it. Luckily, I’m not - in my right mind,” quips Dr McCarthy.
But even when a tail is made, Winter has to adjust and adapt to her new appendage, but with Sawyer’s unwavering devotion, Clay’s determination and persistence and Dr McCarthy’s patience, Winter is back to her full swimming glory.
Winter’s inspirational fight for survival has turned her into a symbol of courage and hope for many of those facing their own physical challenges, as well as a Clearwater celebrity, with people travelling far and wide across the country to meet her.
The closing credits featuring real video footage are sure to strike a jolt into even the most cold-hearted cinemagoer.
Director Charles Martin Smith has made a heart-warming film that the whole family can enjoy, which although is schmaltzy and syrupy sweet at times, comes with its own dose of inspiration.
Review by Shereen Low
(U, 112 mins)
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: October 14 (UK & Ireland)