Adrift Review

I’m familiar with Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur from the excellent and quirky 101 Reykjavik, but also from the underwhelming and forgettable Contraband.

Lately, with films such as Everest, Kormákur seems to have found his niche with true-life, human interest stories.

So it certainly seems with survival drama Adrift, out in cinemas this week.

The film tells the true and harrowing story of Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp, a young couple who, in 1983, attempted to sail a yacht from Tahiti to San Diego.

The purpose of the trip was to transport the boat back to America for its current owners. En route, the couple found themselves sailing directly into the path of Hurricane Raymond.

Their boat is badly damaged, they find themselves off course and Richard is seriously injured. It then falls to Tami to try to navigate the long way back to safety and save them both.

Shailene Woodley plays Tami, a free spirit who we first properly encounter as she is backpacking from place to place, a few months prior to the disastrous voyage.

She is working at the docks in Tahiti when Richard, played by Sam Claflin, arrives in his boat.

There is an instant spark between the two and they start dating. The two gradually fall in love, united by their desire to travel the world.

They are in the process of planning such a trip, when fate intervenes and they cross paths with old friends of Richard who make the request of them to sail a yacht to San Diego.

Richard thinks they could use the cash to fund future trips, whilst Tami is less enthusiastic, particularly as San Diego is her home town and she’s not ready to see home just yet.

However, feelings ultimately prevail and the couple decide to set sail together.

Adrift opens with the aftermath of the hurricane, being present-day, and then eases into a steady rhythm of jumping back and forth between the past and the present.

Through this structure, we are spared the increasing despair of the couple’s odyssey, punctuated as it is by happier memories. The sense of mounting dread of other similarly-themed films is therefore somewhat diluted.

What is gained, apart from a balanced tone, is a deeper sense of what is at stake and the depth of relationship between the couple.

One particularly moving moment sees Tami, after weeks adrift at sea, croaking out the words of Tom Waits’ I Hope That I Don’t Fall In Love With You, juxtaposed with Richard earlier singing the same song in happier, pre-hurricane times.

Woodley, rightly acclaimed, is terrific in the central role, hitting the right notes of inner strength and outer desperation. Frequent Woodley collaborator Miles Teller reportedly had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts, but Claflin stepped in to do a solid job.

Overall, the film’s trajectory may have been criticised as familiar, but there is just enough originality in the storytelling and gusto in the performances, particularly Woodley’s, to merit a watch.

Conor Brennan

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