Anyone can hold the helm when the sea is calm. This is a famous old saying, particularly true, for an amazingly resourceful girl Tami Oldham played by the beautiful and talented Shailene Woodley. A woman at the center of a survival story is a rarity that immediately grabs you in “Adrift”. Playing the role of her partner, her captain, and lover is Sam Claflin as Richard Sharp. Only an adventure junkie can follow through on an adventurous film structure where the film begins after the disaster has happened and then the film cuts back to past where we learn more about the characters, this is a consistent theme for this film’s structure up until the point where the two storylines meet. I imagine sticking to this structure would’ve been risky but it was executed superbly by the adventurous Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (The man who, while shooting “Everest”, climbed 24,000ft to scout for locations which explains why the visuals in this film were so wonderful).
Adrift starts with a scene where a young and bloodied woman, who is barely conscious, is suddenly woken up by jolts. She (Tami Oldham) is below deck in a boat, which is filling up with water fast; the sound of her vessel creaking and groaning ominously all around her can be heard. She does eventually fight her way out of this non-metaphorical sunken place and into the sunlight – at which point the camera continues pulling further and further back, revealing that not only is this unlucky sailor alone on a wrecked ship, but the ship itself is merely a fragment in a vast, empty ocean with nothing but water all around her. It is at this point where we get our first of many cutback scenes to see that Tami Oldham was just another fresh-faced, free-spirit schooner-hopper who landed in Tahiti, merely skipping from one maritime gig to the next, no end destination and no grand plan in mind. She is content with doing odd jobs until she meets Richard (Claflin). The story progresses and the two take to the open water like a pair of porpoises in love. All is going well for the couple until a hurricane blows them 1,500 square miles off course, wrecks the boat, knocks Richard overboard, and strands Tami without an engine or a radio. They are so far from their destination that if they drift any farther, the next stop is Japan.
Holding the helm when the sea is most definitely not calm is what Woodley does so well and in this process you get to see an acting masterclass. She is a mesmerizing powerhouse in the lead role, with that raw quality to her performance that instantly gets you to buy into whatever she is selling. Paired with great visuals, this film is an excellent watch.