When they set sail for San Diego from Tahiti, Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) had no warning they were about to sail into one of the most devastating hurricanes on record. Coming to after the storm, Tami found Richard badly injured and their 44 foot sailboat destroyed. For 41 days, it was up to Tami to save the two who now found themselves "Adrift."
One comes away from "Adrift" admiring producer/star Shailene Woodley's commitment to this project. The young actress is compelling as a free spirit traveling the globe who meets 'the one,' a slightly older British man, and follows him on a job that will finance their adventures only to face hardships that would crush mere mortals. But in trying to avoid similarities with the recent Robert Redford starrer "All Is Lost," the film leans on a gimmick which ultimately undermines it. Still, Woodley and director Baltasar Kormákur's ("The Sea," "Everest") hair raising recreations of a category 5 hurricane make this worth a sit. And the film sidesteps the most obvious of seafaring cliches - sharks.
That gimmick is somewhat telegraphed, beginning with the knowledge that the film was adapted from Tami Oldham Ashcraft's 'Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea.' Opening post storm, we find Tami being tossed about by the deep water sloshing back and forth below decks. After realizing her situation, she panics - Richard is nowhere to be seen. But Tami is resilient and able and addresses immediate needs, setting up the yacht's pump, reraising its mast and finding a stored jib. Once settled, she scans the horizon with binoculars and spies the boat's overturned dinghy, Richard clinging to its hull. She ties a rope to her midriff, swims out and hauls him in. His leg is shattered and ribs broken.
The above doesn't happen all in one sequence, though, "Adrift" constantly hopping back and forth in time. We do not see the fateful storm, for example, until near the end of the film. As the survival story moves forward, we flash back to the building relationship between Tami and Richard, one which leads to a touching proposal at sea. After meeting Richard when he sails into a Tahitian port, Tami trots down to his boat with a bucket of ice for the fish he is filleting. He invites her for dinner and learns she is a vegetarian. The two world travelers are drawn to one another, Richard enchanted by the vibrant young woman whose mother had her at fifteen and who picked up and left home right after graduating high school. He calls her 'wild,' and its a fitting description, the toned and tanned Tami seemingly up for anything as long as it doesn't harm other living creatures. She takes him to a hidden waterfall, then jumps off a cliff rock, disappearing into the water. He panics - in an incident paralleling her later one - and nervously follows only to find her in the lotus position underwater.
Walking through a local market stocking up on vegetables, Richard is hailed by an older couple, Peter (Jeffrey Thomas) and Christine (Elizabeth Hawthorne), who invite the two for coffee. They have a proposition - if Richard sails their yacht back to San Diego, coincidentally Tami's home town, they will pay him $10K and give him a return airline ticket. He counters for two tickets and the deal is struck. Initially reluctant because of the route, Tami becomes enchanted with the boat and the two set sail into a red sky at night.
The Divergence and Hunger Games stars have a nice dynamic together, her joyful approach to life countering his somewhat more reserved one, but Claflin is more support than colead, especially as he spends so much of the running time incapacitated. Woodley is so effective, we have no trouble believing the actress could accomplish everything her character does here. But "Adrift" suffers from familiarity, its twist better suited to literature than cinema.
Robin did not see this film.
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