Movie review: ‘Adrift’

Adrift — Running Time: 1:38 — Rating: PG-13
Early warning: I loved and admired “Adrift” without any reservation and am thoroughly pleased to be able to write about it. Director Baltasar Kormakur delivers the emotions of a young couple as they fall in love and then as they endure the massive hurricane of 1983 at sea.
Because the Icelandic director triggers audience emotion skillfully and without sentimentality, I urge you to leave your critical eye at home and sink into it. If you’re a sailor, don’t crush the mood by picking a fault here or there. Just get into this one with pleasure.
Tami (Shailene Woodley) is wandering the world supporting herself by doing physical work on docks. She is rootless, strong and independent. Richard (Sam Claflin) is living his life at sea on the boat he has built with his own hands. Neither has a life plan other than to follow their instincts for water and boats. Both are, at the moment, happily rootless and unable to explain what brought each to this longing for the sea.
During a relaxed courtship that unfolds on the water off Tahiti, Richard is offered $10,000 by a couple who need someone to take their boat from there to San Diego. As the couple sails into the rising winds of the hurricane, director Kormakur begins a series of scene shifts between love and hurricane that add up to an extraordinarily moving portrait of these two young people. Nothing about their personalities, their abilities, or their depth of character is a cliché.
The depth and drive that actor Shailene Woodley calls on to create Tami holds us throughout. She is an individual who can be nearly broken by circumstance, but instead, rebounds. She and Sam Claflin create a couple facing death by weather with the same stoicism we saw in the two young people who met as they were building separate lives around the sea. Two lesser actors could easily have turned this couple into a cliché. Instead, the writers have created two young people who fled early family troubles to be near the sea. Each did that alone.
The filming of the storm itself and its effects on these two after 41 days adrift silences the theater. The filmmakers have created a hurricane that reveals nothing of pretend. We feel we are there in both the good and bad times, and that is rarely true in love stories or disaster movies. They have brought all of us right into the middle of the storm that threatens two people we care about quite genuinely. How many times a year do you feel yourself disappear from your theater seat into the story on that great big screen?
When we learn in the final credits that this movie is based on a true story I was surprised to find myself disappointed because I couldn’t quite believe the real players could possibly have been as quietly strong as those created by Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin. Please, just go.
— Reviewed by Joan Ellis

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