by Toby Woollaston

adriftWell versed in the art of intrepid cinema, Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest) has helmed an absorbing film that recounts the true story of a free-spirited couple, who in 1983 sailed directly into tragedy.

Shailene Woodley (The Fault in Our Stars) offers a heartfelt performance as Tami, a free-wheeling Californian whose jaunt across the Pacific sees her land in the open arms of an earnest but charming Englishman. Sam Claflin offers a deliciously syrupy performance as Richard, one he’s perfected since his roles in Me Before You and Their Finest.  Tami and Richard’s discussions on whether the sunset’s colour is “beet-infused tamarind”, or simply “red” wonderfully paints a blossoming relationship of artistic opposites.  Together the love-struck couple take a job to sail a 44-foot yacht from Tahiti to San Francisco—a journey that would unfortunately see them sail directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history, leaving them hopelessly adrift in the Pacific with no help in sight.

I went into this film knowing very little of the true events surrounding Tami and Richard and certainly, the film would be to the detriment of spoilers, so avoid them if you can. That said, it is fairly heavy-handed on foreshadowing certain crucial events.  Dare I say it, the story might’ve benefited from indulging in some cinematic embellishments. I know, have me drawn-and-quartered and bludgeoned with the film-critics code of conduct for suggesting such things—but Adrift sets sail on some very interesting ideas and then, unfortunately, weighs anchor. Beholden to the duty of telling a true story, it becomes quite literal rather than delighting in the coddling arms of cinematic ambiguity.  Shame, but I guess if you tell a true story, then the truth you must tell.

Ultimately though, it is to Adrift’s credit, that it does stay its course. It competently recounts Tami Ashcraft’s memoirs and certainly, the sanctity and the spirit of her words are intact. Missed opportunities aside, it remains an engaging and haunting tale.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald and NZME here.