Adrift Review: Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin keep this boat afloat.
Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) at the age of 23 decided to leave her home in San Diego and move to Tahiti. After arriving on the island, Tami meets Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), a passionate young sailor that has built his own boat and spends most of his time sailing around the world. Tami and Richard fall in love and share a similar love for the ocean. As they begin making plans to travel around the world together, their plans are put on hold after one of Richard’s friends asks them to drive their yacht from Tahiti to San Diego after he is forced to return to England on an emergency trip. The newly engaged couple agree to take the yacht to San Diego but during their journey, they expectedly end up in the middle of a catastrophic hurricane which leaves them abandoned at sea for 41 days.
Adrift is based on an incredible true story and one that I knew nothing about prior to seeing the film. If you don’t know Tami’s story and are interested in seeing this film, I would highly recommend that you watch the film before you research her story or read her book, “Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Lost, and Survival at Sea.” After seeing the film, I feel like the less you know about this story going into it, the more effective the film will be. While there aren’t a whole lot of “lost at sea” themed films, I do feel like there have been at least 10 to 20 films that have tackled themes that revolve around the fear and struggles of being shipwrecked, lost at sea, and overcoming the odds to survive. Films like Castaway, Open Water, and All is Lost come to mind but I do feel like Adrift as a whole is very effective because it is based on such a remarkable true story that is pretty much being retold in this film.
What immediately stood out about Adrift is its nonlinear narrative. Director Baltasar Kormákur did such a great job bringing Tami and Richard’s story to life. The film opens with an intense scene showing Tami waking up in a boat that is flooded with water and digging through debris as she attempts to call for help. The following scene is a flashback to Tami arriving in Tahiti. This nonlinear storytelling continues for about 95 minutes as the film goes back and forth between Tami and Richard are fighting to survive while also showing what their lives were like before going on this trip. I felt like this was a great way to tell their story because as characters Tami and Richard are being developed more and more throughout the film. It is sort of refreshing as an audience member to not really know these characters right away and as a result, helped to build the story by keeping the viewer interested in Tami and Richard’s lives.
I have been a big fan of Shailene Woodley’s work ever since The Descendants back in 2011. Since that breakthrough performance, Woodley has taken on a wide variety of roles that continue to challenge her as an actress. While watching Adrift, you see Woodley become Tami Oldham. This is a very physically demanding role and Woodley clearly pushes herself both emotionally and physically. As this story progresses, you feel as though Woodley was actually lost at sea. She begins to look dirty and disheveled and by the end of the film, she has even lost a bunch of weight. It is clear to me that Woodley poured her heart and soul into this role. She felt so passionate about this story that she even a producer on the film.
Sam Claflin as Richard is a great casting choice. Again, please don’t look this up until you see the film but Claflin looks a lot like the real Richard Sharp. On top of that, Claflin has phenomenal chemistry with Woodley. The two actors are what truly makes this film such a success. Their relationship feels authentic and shapes this incredible story of survival. I loved the intimate scenes where we get to know a little bit about Richard’s past and what shapes him as a person. These scenes truly help the audience connect with the character while giving us an understanding as to how and why Tami and Richard fell in love in such a short period of time.
While Adrift is beautifully shot with two incredible performances, I wasn’t as emotionally invested in the story as much as I wanted to be. It is kind of hard to pinpoint what exactly is missing but I just didn’t feel that raw emotion that I hoped to feel in the film’s final act. Sure, I got a bit teary-eyed at the very end but my reaction was not nearly as emotional as I hoped for it to be, especially considering that these two actors had such an incredible on-screen dynamic. I feel like maybe there just wasn’t enough backstory focused on their relationship or their time together but whatever it was, something was missing as it failed to spark the type of emotional response that I was hoping for.
Adrift is the type of film that will stick with you for days after watching it. This is a fascinating true story that is all about the power of love and survival. Woodley and Claflin are simply terrific together with one of their finest performances to date. Tami Oldham’s story is a remarkable one that is all around inspiring. Adrift is a powerful little film that serves as a much-needed and welcomed change of pace from the typical summer fare. If you enjoy character-driven dramas, I would highly recommend checking out Adrift when it opens in theaters this weekend.