Adrift (2017)

June 29th, 2018
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir.: Baltasar Kormakur; Cast: Shailine Woodley, Sam Chaflin; USA 2018, 96 min.

Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur (Everest) creates another human struggle with nature: this   time a couple of drifters come up against a hurricane – and, low and behold – it’s the woman who rescues the man and keeps the boat afloat.

Based on a true story and Tami Ashcroft’s book, Woodley plays the heroine with great gusto and endless stamina. Her mate Richard Sharp (Chaflin) is most of the time inactive, suffering serious internal injuries and a shattered leg after the hurricane struck. Writers Aaron and Jordan Kendell and David Branson Smith have overcome a structural problem by intercutting the drifting period (not much happens) with scenes from the past five years, after these two free spirits met in San Diego. Both are running away from traumatic childhoods: Tami’s mother was just fifteen when she gave birth to her, and Sharp’s mother committed suicide when her son was seven. Tami is particularly keen on keeping her independent status when a wealthy elderly couple, friends of Richard, ask them to sail their luxury boat from Tahiti to California, she is at first reluctant. But Richard talks her into it, and so the fateful journey begins.

DoP Robert Richardson, an Oliver Stone (JFK) and Tarantino (Kill Bill) regular, skilfully pictures the horror of waves crushing into the small space of the boat: often it looks like a phone box tossed into the ocean – not the luxury sailing boat of before. Tami is at the centre of action, riffling through the rubbish to find food, after having rescued Richard from clinging to a plank. Afterwards she keeps the boat afloat, using duct-tape to repair the holes. After Richard falls into a delirium, she nurses him while he whinges “ I wish you had never met me, you would not be in trouble”. Full of stoism Tami accepts her role of saviour and martyr, convincing herself that she will survive.

Both actors have been part of dystopian teenage features like The Hunger Games, but this much more intimate enterprise suits them better. Their chemistry helps to carry the feature, which, to be honest, doesn’t really bring anything new to the shipwreck survival sub-genre. But to have a female lead (in the true sense of the word) does make a difference in perception. Together with Richardson’s stunning under-water images, they succeed in making Adrift a cut above the rest. AS



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