On Dec. 26, 2004, a massive underwater earthquake in the Indian Ocean triggered a tsunami that ripped through the coastlines of several Southeast Asian countries, devastating entire communities. The tsunami, which killed over 230,000 people, was one of the biggest natural disasters in the last century.
Where is the family from 'The Impossible' now?
The real Álvarez-Belón family used the traumatic event to shape the rest of their lives in service of others as a way to honor those that did not manage to survive.
Maria, who is a doctor, works as an advocate for tsunami survivors and gives talks around the world as a motivational speaker. Her husband, Enrique, volunteers his time at the NGO Proactiva Open Arms, which helps refugees arriving on the Greek coast from Turkey.
Maria and Enrique’s three sons have also used their experiences to give back. After the life-changing experience of surviving a natural disaster, Lucas knew at age 10 that he wanted to become a doctor.
The oldest Álvarez-Belón son studied medicine at University College in London and went on to become a doctor. Now 26, Lucas spent the past summer as one of the heroes of the pandemic, helping thousands of COVID-19 patients at hospitals in London.
Middle child Tomás also chose a life of service and studied at Atlantic College in Llantwit Major, Wales because of its renowned lifeguard training program. He later went on to complete a B.S. in Science, Technology, and International Affairs at Georgetown University and continues to raise awareness about tsunamis and advocate for early warning systems.
The youngest son of the family, Simón, is also a trained lifeguard with Proactiva Open Arms, like his father. Simón is currently still in school and studies Anthropology and Politics at University College Utrecht in the Netherlands.
What is 'The Impossible' about?
The Impossible is based on María Belón and her husband, Enrique Álvarez, who were vacationing in Thailand with their three sons, Lucas, Tomás, and Simón. The Spanish family was lounging at the hotel pool in 2004 when the group heard “a very horrible sound … No one recognised [it]. It felt like the Earth was coming apart but everything looked perfect.”
Minutes later, Maria saw “a huge black wall” coming towards them and before anyone knew what was happening, the water crashed down and ripped through the hotel. Maria and her eldest, Lucas, were separated from her husband and younger sons, and ended up in a hospital, under the assumption that the rest of the family had been killed.
All the while, however, Enrique had found his other two sons and returned to the safety of the roof of their hotel. After several days of searching, Enrique finally found his wife and third son. The family was reunited and ultimately able to leave the country together.
While many disaster movies would take liberties with the story to make it a more exciting film, director Juan Antonio Bayona took great pains to ensure that the movie reflected the real-life story of the Álvarez-Belón family as closely as possible.
Maria Belón herself praised the director’s accuracy in portraying the scariest moment of her life, having each actor standing in exactly the same spot around the swimming pool where it happened.
The Impossible is now streaming on Netflix.