Frances Winston reviews Adrift, a survival film based on a true story, of a couple adrift on the high seas during Hurricane Raymond
Directed by: Balthasar Kormákur – Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin
Adrift announces that it is a true story right at the opening credits. I would say it is fairer to say it is based on a true story as, like so many of these types of movies, it does take a little dramatic licence.
Essentially Adrift is a survival story, telling the tale of Tami Oldham (Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Claflin) who found themselves caught in the midst of Hurricane Raymond, while navigating a 4,000 mile ocean trip in 1983. Their vessel was devastated, and Tami spent 41 days adrift at sea trying to make her way to land.
So in a nutshell, that is the plot. Except in real life, Richard died during the storm (not a spoiler – it has been widely documented) and here, Tami finds him in the water post-storm, and spends most of the movie nursing him.
Of course, we don’t spend all our time focusing on the battered boat and the attempt to survive, Tami and Richard’s love story is told in flashback, and is more like something you would see in a teen romance rather than a supposedly grown-up true-life drama. This is in contrast to the harsh conditions faced on the open seas, where a lack of food, water, and a flooded and damaged vessel provide their own set of challenges.
In real life, Tami showed amazing ingenuity and courage surviving her ordeal. However, you don’t quite get the full sense of that here, since they incorporate Richard’s character into most of her journey. It almost feels like they didn’t trust Woodley to carry the movie predominately on her own (which is odd as she is also a producer). This is a shame, as similar sea survival films, such as All Is Lost (Robert Redford) and The Mercy (Colin Firth) have shown that one character on screen for long periods can indeed engage an audience. It’s disappointing, especially given the current efforts to promote more female-driven movies. And Woodley does a good job and holds her own on screen.
Visually Adrift is stunning. The cinematography is a visual treat, whether it is the beaches of Tahiti (where they first meet) or the vast seascape Tami finds herself stranded in. This is complemented by a stunning soundtrack. They avoid the temptation to make this very obviously 80s, and so it could almost be set in any time period over the past few decades.
Adrift is far too schmaltzy in parts, and the conceit of bringing Richard back to life doesn’t always work, and indeed causes drag in places. But when it’s good it’s very good, and it has some extremely moving moments. It’s rarely riveting, but Adrift is engaging, and you will want to watch to the end to see the outcome, even though you already know it.
In Cinemas June 29th! Trailer below: