You’re stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean. The boat is either sinking or in some state of disrepair. You’re either alone or with one other person, who is either in and out of consciousness or too injured to be of any help. Hands up if you’ve seen this movie? Hands up if you’ve seen several of this movie? That’s a lot of hands. And while these films bounce between fiction and non-fiction, it never ceases to amaze me how fresh and original these filmmakers seem to keep this tired trope, especially without the use of sharks. Well hold on to your hats, because ‘Adrift’ is about to blow your hair back.
This true story set in 1983 sees nomadic globe wonderers Tami (Shailene Woodley, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’) and Richard (Sam Claflin, ‘Me Before You’) meet and fall in love in Tahiti. Only a few months into their blossoming relationship, they’re given an offer too good to refuse - sail a friend’s yacht to California in exchange for enough money to fund their travels for the next year and a pair of first-class plane tickets. What would have been a peaceful 30 day trip across the sea takes a turn when a storm batters the boat resulting in a gravely injured Richard, the boat thrashed and unable to function properly, leaving Tami to get them to land and safety. The pair are now adrift at sea with limited supplies as they hope to reach the near-impossible target of Hawaii before succumbing to starvation, dehydration, the elements or their injuries.
'ADRIFT' TRAILER 2
The scenes of peril are inter-spliced with flashbacks to Tami and Richards' courtship, romance and the initiation of their now-tragic sea journey. Some may see this as a misstep that breaks the tension of the real drama. I, however, see the couple’s tale as the real story. Seeing as this is based on a real-life event, one can assume that either one or both parties survive to tell it, so while the stakes are the highest on offer and it’s always a good yarn to see how they overcome these dire obstacles, isn’t it better storytelling to make your audience care for your protagonists first? And yes, the love story is cheesy but the film knows it and addresses it knowing that almost all love stories are, that’s just how love goes (cue Janet Jackson).
This harrowing tale of love and survival hits all the right notes and beats
This harrowing tale of love and survival hits all the right notes you’d expect it to, but what puts this above the rest is its stars. Sam and Shailene are terrific, with Woodley finally free of these pesky teen adaptations and spreading her wings wide and free, serving also as a producer on this project and her commitment is evident. Director Baltasar Kormákur seems to have found his niche, having also given us 2015’s ‘Everest’. He does great working keeping the suspense alive with these true and predicable stories, and never shies away from the humans at the centre of them in favour of effects, big bangs and unnecessary bullshit. Sorry to disappoint some of you, but there are no circling sharks in this film.