This Is the Inspiring True Story 'Penguin Bloom' Is Based On

Is 'Penguin Bloom' a true story? Here's what you need to know about the real Samantha Bloom and her family.


Jan. 27 2021, Published 5:02 p.m. ET

Naomi Watts as Sam Bloom
Source: Netflix

If you see that Naomi Watts is in Thailand, you can assume there’s going to be trouble. In The Impossible, Naomi played a mother whose family is torn apart by the tsunami while they vacation in the Southeast Asian country. 

Now, she’s playing Samantha Bloom, another mother on holiday in Thailand, who has a life-altering accident and goes through an unusual rehabilitation process.

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Penguin Bloom is the story of Sam Bloom’s accident, and how her family helped her cope with her recovery with the help of a unique nurse: a baby magpie. 

Keep scrolling to find out the true story behind Penguin Bloom.

penguin bloom true story
Source: Netflix
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What true story is 'Penguin Bloom' is based on?

Penguin Bloom is based on a book of the same name and tells the story of an Australian woman, Samantha Bloom. 

In 2013, Sam, her husband Cameron (Andrew Lincoln in the movie), and their three sons traveled to Thailand for a holiday when tragedy struck the family matriarch. 

Sam was leaning against a railing that happened to be rotted and fell 20 feet to the concrete floor below.

Sam fractured her skull, ruptured her lungs, and shattered her spine. She was paralyzed from the chest down and spent seven months in intensive physical rehab. 

When she did ultimately return home, Sam fell into a deep depression. 

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Her life prior to the accident was an active and busy one, so to see people surfing or running on the beach outside her house filled her with resentment and sadness. 

She also started to withdraw from her family and felt “like the worst mum in the world,” angry and guilty at the fact that she was ruining her family’s life and her sons’ childhoods. 

penguin bloom true story
Source: Netflix

Naomi Watts as Sam Bloom, Andrew Lincoln as Cameron Bloom

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But things started to change when Noah, Sam’s son, brought an injured baby magpie home and the family started to care for it. 

Unlike in the movie, where Noah finds the bird on the beach, real-life Noah found the magpie in a park close to his grandmother’s house. But just like it's shown in the film, the Blooms did actually name the bird Penguin because of its black and white plumage and because it walked with a bit of a waddle.

The movie is also true in its depiction of the unusually tender and close relationship that the family developed with the bird, especially Sam. 

Since she was still in recovery and was house-bound at the time, Sam and Penguin started spending all their time together. 

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but, in a way, we were keeping each other alive,” she said, and by nursing the tiny bird back to health, Sam realized that it was possible for her to also recover and regain her independent life.

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Penguin soon started to get better and eventually moved from living in the house to a frangipani tree in the Blooms' yard. 

And as the bird got better, Sam returned to the water by learning how to canoe. 

penguin bloom true story
Source: Netflix

Naomi Watts as Sam Bloom

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Although it was a challenge for someone with no torso strength or control, Sam worked diligently with her coach Gaye Hatfield (Rachel House in the movie) and in 2015, Sam qualified for a spot on Australia’s ParaCanoe team. 

After kayaking and canoeing, Sam also returned to surfing, one of her favorite pastimes before her accident. 

In 2018, she became a member of the Australian Adaptive Surf Team and competes in the prone-assist category. Not only does Sam competitively surf now, but she’s also won two World Para Surfing Championships.

The Bloom family hasn’t seen Penguin since he flew off for the last time in 2015.

According to the book Penguin Bloom, the last time the family saw the magpie was the night before Cameron and his three sons flew to Milan to watch Sam compete in the Paracanoe World Championships for Australia. 

“I think she came at the perfect time and left at the perfect time because I was in a much better headspace,” says Sam. “I hope that she started her own little family.” 

Penguin Bloom is available to stream on Netflix.

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