Nim’s Island (2008)

Rated PG. Our ratings: V- 2; L- 4; S/N-1 . Running time: 1 hour 32 min.

…for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice,
but rather a spirit of power and of love and of
self-discipline.
1 Timothy 1:7

Nim and her father.

2008 Fox Walden Media

This adaptation of the novel by Wendy Orr will appeal mainly to young girls, though even they might see through some of the improbabilities that get in the way of adult sensibilities. Best thing about the film is Abigail Breslin, fresh from her triumph in Little Miss Sunshine. She is Nim Rusoe who has lived all of her life with her widower father on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Note that last name, so similar to another island dweller of long ago. Nim has established close contact with a sea lion named Selkie, a bearded dragon lizard called Fred, and Galileo, a pelican—all of whom, of course, will play an important part in the adventure to come. Father Jack (Gerard Butler) is a dedicated scientist who, with his daughter, has built a sumptuous bamboo home, equipped with a generator so that they can have electricity, and even in that isolated stretch of ocean, great Internet service.

Alex has a passion for a series of novels that feature an Indiana Jones type character named Alex Rover. When her father sails away on his sail boat to conduct one of his studies and does not return within the few days expected, Nim gets in touch by email with Alex the author. What she does not know is that the author is a woman, Alexandra (Jodie Foster), who suffers so much from agoraphobia that she has not been out of her house for 16 weeks and is barely able to make it to her mail box—plus, the author converses with the character whom she created (Gerard Butler also playing Jack) Nonetheless when Nim injures herself climbing the nearby volcano (more on the why in a moment) and sends out a plea for help. Alexandra’s maternal instincts are so aroused by Nim, that she summons up the courage, aided by her “conversations” with Alex Rover, and sets out on the long, obstacle-filled voyage to reach the island.

Nim’s reason for climbing that volcano was so that she could scare off the equivalent of the pirates in an Alex Rover novel. A cruise ship with a pirate theme has anchored off the island and the boorish tourists have come ashore, thus in her eyes threatening her sanctuary. Nim tires various means to scare them off, the ultimate being her climbing the volcano and setting off a small eruption. This is one of many incredulous incidents that make the film difficult for adults to accept. However, for families with children younger than eight or nine, the film provides some enjoyable entertainment in which a girl and a woman emerge as strong characters.

For Reflection/discussion 1) What do you like best about Nim? How has she and her father apparently learned to accept the death of her mother?

2) What is Alexandra like when you first meet her? Have you had an imaginary friend that you talked with? What is it that that “friend” brings to you that you need? How is Alex Rover similar to the animal friends of Nim?

3) What is it that helps Alexandra overcome her fear and start out on her journey? What has helped you overcome some fear that you had? When Alexandra finally reaches Nim, what do each give to the other that is helpful?

4) Do you find anything in the film hard to believe? How is the film more like a fantasy or cartoon than a “real life” film? And yet, what truth do you still see in it?