“Adrift” Movie Review

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     Imagine Robert Redford’s 2013 film “All Is Lost” infused with YA stars to give the story appeal to the current generation, along with “Everest” director Baltasar Kormakur’s chops for recreating dangerous and harrowing scenarios, and you’d come up with “Adrift”, the true story of Richard Sharp’s and Tami Oldham’s early 80s journey sailing across the Pacific gone horribly wrong.  Shailene Woodley (“Divergent”) and Sam Claflin (“The Hunger Games”) portray the couple in what begins as a months long love story, but takes a sharp turn when the duo find themselves in a grueling test of survival.  And though there is a certain level of familiarity in the story, the filmmakers are game in putting their own twist on the way it is told, allowing for a number of turns the audience may not see coming.

     Tami (Shailene Woodley) is a young twenty something who has left her hometown of San Diego, California to find herself in a solo globetrotting expedition that ultimately leads her to Tahiti.  She possesses the skills to sail and is well versed in the maintenance and upkeep necessary for boating and sailing, a knack which leads to her to finding work at a boat dock scrubbing the hulls of the yachts kept there by those living the kind of life she probably dreams of for herself someday.  It’s not long before she meets Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), an early thirties drifter who has built his own sail boat and is currently sailing the world on his own.  At face value, you’re looking at these two characters and thinking they must’ve been made for each other, with both seemingly still looking for that moment in time that will define who they are and what they will ultimately become.

     Kormakur wisely chooses to tell the story in non linear fashion.  Knowing most will have watched the trailer prior to viewing “Adrift”, the director begins the film at the moment where Tami wakes up on the deck of a yacht that is badly damaged, and Richard is nowhere in site.  She screams in horror, looking desperately for the man she set sail with, but also takes note of her own injuries and the situation she now finds herself in.  But then we flashback to the initial moments of her arrival in Tahiti, where she first meets Richard and begins the kind of relationship she has likely been looking for, but never thought she would find.  Richard and Tami seem to live the life of being in a constant vacation.  One in which they sail the clear waters surrounding the locale, hike to hidden waterfalls and rivers, and dine on the fish Richard has caught, all while not having a single care in the world.  

     That world is interrupted; however, when Richard and Tami run into an older couple of whom Richard has made a previous acquaintance.  The couple tells them one of their family members has fallen ill and they have to fly back to California immediately, which means they also need to find someone to sail their yacht across the Pacific from Tahiti to San Diego.  A task they are asking Richard to do for ten thousand dollars and a first class ticket back to Tahiti.  Initially, Tami isn't inclined to participate, citing her feelings of not wanting to be a tag along in Richard’s adventures.  But the love they share after spending several months together ultimately sees Tami agreeing to go, and the two set sail for what would seem to be the kind of once in a lifetime journey two people like them would have never thought was possible.

     It’s unknown how or why Richard and Tami were not informed of the possibility of a Category 4 hurricane falling directly into their path.  Perhaps the technology of the early 80s was still in its infancy and boaters were regularly caught in these types of situations, but as depicted in the film, they quickly find themselves in an impossible situation, not unlike the gut wrenching tsunami sequence in 2012’s “The Impossible”.  The devastation leaves the boat crumbled and with Richard severely injured, meaning a shocked and battered Tami must fight for their survival while finding a way to somehow get home.  As she attempts these arduous tasks, the standard perils of this sort of story present themselves, including the need for fresh water, food, shelter, and the multitude of boat repairs and ingenious fixes.  But what really shines through is the bond Tami and Richard share, both during the flashback scenes in Tahiti, but especially during circumstances where their will is tested and the thought of hope begins to diminish.  Something that is a testament to the on screen chemistry between Woodley and Claflin, who both deliver stunning performances.  In presenting this to the audience, “Adrift” allows us to look past the situation Richard and Tami are in, as we realize they are just thankful to have each other.  Sometimes, that’s all we need.  

GRADE: B