Movie Review – Adrift (2018)
We’ve seen a few films about a man or men trapped on a boat and lost at sea in which the men have to survive through dehydration, starvation and other harsh elements. We saw Robert Redford in All Is Lost (2013) and Suraj Sharma in Life of Pi (2012). Even the film Unbroken (2014) had a section where Jack O’Connell had to survive in a boat in the middle of nowhere. Given the push for more female-led, Hollywood films, adapting the book about a woman floating far in the Pacific feels appropriate now.
It’s easy to compare this film to those aforementioned, seafaring movies, but what movie came to mind as this one came to its third act was Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (2013). There’s a lot of similarities if you replace the ocean with outer space, but Cuarón was after action and spectacle, pretty much from beginning to end. That certainly isn’t what director Baltasar Kormákur is after here. Kormákur is after the age-old idea of romance.
Yet, that romantic idea might in fact infringe on the larger feminist idea that this movie could have adopted. Since this movie is adapted from a true story, the director probably felt obligated or simply wanted to respect the feelings of the real-life person on whom it’s all based. In real-life, a 24-year-old woman named Tami Oldham Ashcraft went sailing with a 33-year-old man named Richard Sharp. Their boat was caught in a hurricane. The headline coming out of that incident is that Richard saved Tami.
Gravity was criticized that instead of being totally feminist and about a woman who saves herself from a horrible situation where she’s stranded alone in a harsh environment, it had her be rescued by a man in key moments that were literal or figurative. Cuarón is able to get around those criticisms because he doesn’t have the girl give all the credit to the guy and he doesn’t have that same guy on screen for the majority of it. Cuarón’s spectacle is so amazing that most criticisms in that respect are eschewed any way.
Kormákur doesn’t get around those criticisms completely. The girl gives all credit to the guy and not herself. Plus, the guy is on-screen for the majority of the time. Granted the guy doesn’t do anything and calls himself “dead weight,” it walks a fine line of being an ode to a man with whom the woman loved and an empowering odyssey of a woman who persevered despite really tough conditions. The movie tries to be both the ode and the odyssey and it barely succeeds at either.
Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars and The Descendants) stars as Tami, the young woman in question. She’s incredibly charming on one hand and very engaging in the romantic parts of this film. She’s also heartbreaking and scrappy in the survival parts of this film. Woodley is coming off a killer and Emmy-nominated performance in HBO’s Big Little Lies, and she brings that movie-star-esque quality to this.
Sam Claflin (Their Finest and Me Before You) co-stars as Richard, the slightly older man in question. Besides being a cute guy, the movie really gives us little, except he’s built a boat. He was simply an object of affection and not much else. The storm sequences aren’t that incredible and probably aren’t worth the price of admission.
Running Time: 2 hrs.
Available on DVD and VOD.