Adrift Review


Cast: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne

Director: Baltasar Kormakur

Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Starring Shailene Woodley (Fault in Our Stars, Divergent films) and Sam Claflin (Me Before You, The Hunger Games films), ADRIFT is based on the inspiring true story of two sailors who set out to journey across the ocean from Tahiti to San Diego. Tami Oldham (Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Claflin) couldn’t anticipate they would be sailing directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami awakens to find Richard badly injured and their boat in ruins. With no hope for rescue, Tami must find the strength and determination to save herself and the only man she has ever loved. ADRIFT is the unforgettable story about the resilience of the human spirit and the transcendent power of love.


Very rarely do we get a woman vs. nature movie, and when we do, they tend to struggle with their premise and make it kind of a chore to watch.  Adrift on the other hand, tows the line between a passionate love story and a terrifying nature dilemma. While some of the story decisions are a little strange, the general premise of the movie and an incredibly captivating performance by Woodley make Adrift a movie that stands out in an already thin genre.

The plot follows Tami (Woodley) and Richard (Claflin), two lovers who met in Fiji who agree to sail the boat of Peter (Thomas) and Christine (Hawthorne) from Fiji to California.  When their boat heads into a hurricane, they must figure out a way to sail their damaged ship to Hawaii after losing most of their resources in the storm.  You can tell right away that while part of the focus is on the love between two people, the tragedy of nature is the real story here.  What separates this film from less acclaimed films within the genre is that the stakes are established immediately with an incredible opening shot.  The film opens with Tami in a boat that is half-filled with water in a state of distress immediately after her and Richard’s boat has crashed. During this scene, there are no cuts and the camera eventually pans out when she goes on deck and sees nothing but ocean for miles around her.  This immediately establishes that this movie is not playing around and that the stakes are absolutely real and life-threatening.  This is what happens when you have established director in Kormakur and a legendary director of cinematography in Robert Richardson, and the level of talent on display from these two turns what could have been a less than average movie to one that establishes a real plotline.  Outside of the cinematography, Woodley commands every second that she is on our screens.  Her ability to go from a young woman in love and on the adventure of a lifetime to a stranded woman who has to go to extreme lengths to survive is drastic, but she displays the necessary emotions beautifully.

While the praises listed above are definitely worth mentioning, that does not mean that Adrift is the perfect film.  One of the main concerns I had is the way that the story is set up.  The story shifts between the tragedy on the boat and Tami and Richard meeting one another until the stories become one towards the end.  While I understand the idea behind showcasing this story as a tragedy using the same strategy as literary classics such as Romeo and Juliet, the shift is sudden and kind of throws the tone off of the story.  This is very apparent in the second half of the story when the scenes shift from Richard lying down with broken bones to him walking around with no issue, and you have to readjust and remember that we are now seeing scenes from the past.  It is an interesting and creative concept, but in this case it did not result in the payoff it was looking for.

Overall, based on the promotional material for this movie, I thought it was going to be just another young adult movie that focused on love between two people in a dire situation, and while Adrift is not a perfect movie, it certainly blew my expectations away.  Woodley delivered one of the most emotionally captivating performances I have seen in a long time and I would like to see her shift to more dramatic roles that take her out of typecast moving forward.  The real lesson to take away from Adrift is that if you have enough offscreen talent you can take a concept that probably would have been done poorly and elevate it to a more than serviceable level.

Overall Score: 6.5/10

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