Being lost at sea or being a lone survivor or couple has become a mini sub-genre of the disaster movie world that’s spawned a few Hollywood movies over the last couple of years. Adrift is the latest and is based on a true story too. The film keeps you guessing as it flicks back and forth between pre and post accident and Shailene Woodley’s acting chops keep you entertained during this decent reenactment.
The disasters faced
A huge storm, a giant wave, running out of food and water, the mental toll of isolation, broken legs and the unknown consequences of peanut butter seduction.
Adrift is primarily the survival story of Tami who is left aboard a posh yacht that has all but wrecked in a huge storm. Her boyfriend Richard is too wounded to be of help and so it is down to Tami to muster the strength and energy to rescue them both. With the shipwreck happening in the opening scene, the film plays with time jumps to show us that Richard and Tami are relatively new lovers, having met each other in Thailand and enjoyed a whirlwind romance. Richard takes the yacht sail back close to Tami’s home as a way to get funds to help them settle down but as Tami is travelling to avoid home altogether, it’s a bone of contention. This is what needles between them as Richard becomes more regretful over the whole thing and drifts into an emotional spiral. The person who initially kept the duo going emotionally and mentally then becomes the strain and burden and so Tami needs to rise above it all and sail home – all while being a novice at sea too!
Why is it worth watching?
Adrift is a personal disaster movie that benefits from having two protagonists that can confide in and bounce off each other. In many other sea stories (All Is Lost I’m looking at you) often it is all about the internal struggle of the mind and the elements. Adrift takes all that internal acting (aka I’ll look at the camera pensively for 90 minutes) and actually places it into conversation. Whilst you could argue it dumbs the story down to one version of the truth, it makes it a much easier watch, and in some cases, much more enjoyable.
The acting of Woodley and Claflin carries the film too. They are believable as a newly loved-up couple and because you see them both in action working the yacht, they both are quite believable as a seafaring duo too. I really appreciated how the movie flicked back and forth in time as Woodley finds things that remind her of happier and safer times. It kept the momentum going and helped tie the on-screen bond together as you see the couple form and grow, whilst seeing their dire situation claw at them too.
**spoiler paragraph – skip if you don’t want to know**
The ending is something that I think will divide viewers. When it turns out that one of the leads didn’t survive at all – I understood yet rolled my eyes at the same time. Not because it is badly done, because actually it’s put together really nicely, but because at the start of the film I’d already thought that would be the case. Over the course of the film, I had started to change my mind but when my original thoughts were confirmed as you see the beginning replayed again – I felt a bit thick.
Adrift was filmed out on the ocean and you can tell. The waves are choppy, the sea unforgiving as it is beautiful and the actors are reacting and acting at the same time. The yacht sequence when it gets trashed is a mixture of some superb camera work and set design, slightly let down by some mid-range CGI of a giant wave. Water is notoriously difficult to pull off so I’m not mad because the way the Woodley is tossed across the set and the camera and water move with her is superb. There’s also some pretty gross infection make up too!
Tami is headstrong, determined, confident and free-spirited. Richard is more of the old school romantic who’d rather drop anchor and settle if his love of sailing would let him. They make a lovely couple and that drives the film forward throughout.
It’s a feeling that I can’t describe. The view and the infinite horizon
Three memorable moments
- The wave hitting set piece when viewed in full
- Peanut Butter times
- Watching it a second time knowing the story in full
The obligatory weird moment…
The film is pretty straight laced so my obligatory weird moment is more of a contextual issue rather than it being actually weird and it’s hugely spoiler-filled. Avoid the rest of this section if you don’t want the movie spoiled.
We find out that Richard was killed in the wave at the beginning which means that he doesn’t interact with anything or change the course of anything physically during the movie. That makes perfect sense. However, Tami dove into the water to drag him back onto the yacht to look after. It can be explained away like a mirage/psychosis thing but as she is physically dragging him onboard it feels a little naughty. What is missing from the film itself is that Tami in real life suffered brain damage from her head injury that meant she had to re-learn a lot of things again such as reading. I often wondered if this brain damage could also have made these mirages of mourning and loss more realistic but the film doesn’t cover any of that at all.
The drinking game
All. Those. Sardines…. barf!
Adrift is a decent film that is like a low-key Castaway in many ways. It’s a story of survival, courage, determination and about how the mind helps you cope. From that standpoint, it dips its toe in the water without going too deep – but its brief runtime and chopped up timeline means that Adrift will keep you more than entertained and is particularly interesting on the second viewing.
Rating: 3/5 (Good)
If you liked Adrift then you may like…
- All is Lost (a silent one-man version of this type of movie)
- Abandoned / Stranded (a real-life Australian capsizing)
- Passengers (for similar themes of the mind)
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