Adrift is directed by Baltasar Kormakur and stars Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. This movie is based on the true-life tale of Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp, who sailed from Tahiti to San Diego in 1983. On their voyage they are find themselves caught in Hurricane Raymond. The film explores the relationship between Tami and Richard, along with their fight for survival following this brutal storm.
The calibre of talent involved in this project was enough to spark my own personal interest. I’ve loved both Woodley and Claflin’s work in their respective young-adult franchises – The Divergent Series and The Hunger Games (my personal favourite). For me, Woodley is one of the greatest actresses of this generation, and she has featured in two of my all-time favourite movies – “The Spectacular Now” and “The Fault in Our Stars”. Furthermore, Claflin’s smaller work outside of his franchise roles, such as “Me Before You”, continue to establish him as an extremely charismatic and a frankly underrated talent. Though I was not initially familiar with director Baltasar Kormakur’s work, he has experience with survival tales, thanks to his work in 2015’s “Everest”. Henceforth, I was confident that this film could be something special, if all the talent aligned correctly.
“Adrift” is beautifully crafted, the type of film that builds slowly, but culminates in something extremely touching and emotive. Admittedly, I was concerned at first. From the opening the film seemed to a tad scatter-brained, mostly due to it’s noticeably unconventional story-telling technique. Yet, as “Adrift” built to its crescendo of a finale, all my fears regarding the way the film was crafted was laid to rest. As a viewer, you are afforded the opportunity to look back and reflect on the picture and re-evaluate your thoughts and feelings. For that reason, while it’s an emotional watch, “Adrift” could perhaps be appreciated further on re-watch. Most admirable is that the picture pays immense respect to the figures at the centre of those fateful events. It has the ability to be wondrously respectful, yet also make the events cinematically appealing, which is an extraordinarily impressive feat. Occasionally with a motion picture that’s based on true life events, it can seem more about the journey than the destination – which is perfectly fine, I must add. Gleefully, thanks to an impressive script, there is both a tightly crafted journey and destination.
What is also a sign of an effective film, is the longing I came away with to watch the rest of director Baltasar Kormakur’s filmography. The shot composition, the various angles in which the film is captured within and the divine cinematography make nearly every frame of “Adrift” look like it could be printed on divine postcard. Some of the more dramatic moments utilise marvellously frenetic camera-work, that build on feelings of hopelessness and danger in a truly palpable way. The storm itself is remarkably edge of your seat and truly unsettling. Even the simpler moments – dinner dates or late-night conversations, for example – are filmed expertly. The colours, cinematography and assured direction is brilliant to behold, an elevates the movie above typical survival fare.
It’s criminal that Shailene Woodley has yet to have, at the very least, and Oscar nomination. She is the heart and soul of “Adrift” and delivers a heartbreakingly raw, honest and authentic performance. She has the power to lift you up and inspire, yet also break your heart in many ways. Woodley has done it again, delivering an unforgettable performance that ranks as one of – if not the best – performance of her career, and likely of the year. Claflin gives another richly genuine performance in “Adrift”, even if he doesn’t quite get the same dramatic weight to carry as Woodley does. Despite that, he is still able to convince viewers of his character’s affliction, leaving an impact on the entire picture that does not go unnoticed.
What I found truly special was how utterly real it all felt, a characteristic of much of Woodley’s work. The humour, dialogue, settings and the love story seem ripped from real-life and very un-Hollywood, which is something particularly unique and welcomed. “Adrift” appeared uneven at first, but thanks to stunning direction and rich cinematography, along with the combined talents of Claflin and especially Woodley, this movie soars to extraordinary heights. It’s powerful whilst being nuanced, featuring a simplistic premise that is explored to the fullest. A lovingly made portrayal of love, survival and hope, that is bound to resonate with all those who experience it. In essence, “Adrift” is an effectively subtle and undeniably moving triumph.