If you’ve seen the trailer for Adrift, then you already know the story’s bare bones: 23-year-old Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and her boyfriend, Richard Sharp (Sam Clafin), sail out to sea and get caught in a hurricane.
Based on real-life events, the movie is well-shot and manages to convey the fear of being lost and stranded in the ocean. The sheer expanse of water all around the characters as they struggle to stay alive is at once beautiful and horrifying. Director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest) seems to be in his element here, perfectly depicting the unpredictability of nature and weather. Here, and everywhere, the ocean bends for no one.
I have a fear of water. Should I avoid this movie?
That seems a touch extreme, but a fear of water would make this movie infinitely scarier. Even for those of us without a water phobia, the very thought of being stranded, thousands of miles away from land, is a nightmare scenario. The first third of the movie is all smiles and light as the couple meets and falls in love, and even though you know what’s coming, as the storm approaches it feels like a literal black cloud enveloping the entire movie.
How true is the movie to the real-life story?
After doing some research, the movie is painfully accurate when it comes to the real-life events. (An important note for people who plan to see it: do NOT read about the story before going to watch Adrift. There are details not revealed until later in the movie, and by researching, you will ruin the film for yourself. The best plan is to go in knowing as little as possible.)
It helps that Kormákur insisted the majority of Adrift be filmed on the open ocean. There is barely any green screen here, and it adds to the film’s authenticity. The camera moves up and down with the boat, enough to the point that you start to feel like you’re at sea too. But don’t worry, those with motion sickness won’t be bothered — this isn’t Cloverfield.
How are Woodley and Clafin?
Woodley especially dives (sorry) into her role, truly becoming Oldham. She perfectly plays the 20-something falling in love, and then switches gears once the storm hits, becoming a hard, dedicated warrior doing anything to survive. Clafin is satisfactory in the role, but his character is a complete teenage fantasy, faultless and selfless in every way. Both of the lead characters, in fact, aren’t given much backstory; the audience gets just enough to form a foundation for each of them, but there’s no major stakes here.
So what’s the bottom line?
For those who love real-life stories, Adrift is entertaining and features some pretty stunning (at times horrifying!) cinematography. Its brief running time is commendable, and it is the perfect length for a movie like this. Audiences don’t want to feel like they’re stuck treading water for hours, and you won’t. While the movie itself isn’t exactly groundbreaking, it’s a fascinating tale of a real-life couple who defied the odds.
‘Adrift’ is now playing in theatres across Canada.