I saw this film eight hours ago and keep finding myself coming back to it in my busy mind.
Released in the UK at the tail end of last month, Adrift is a film about a couple, lost at sea after a hurricane wrecks their boat whilst sailing across the Pacific Ocean. It could perhaps sound a little on the nose initially, but this is in fact the true story experienced by real people Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp back in 1983 when they faced one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. It’s adapted straight from the autobiographical book by Tami titled ‘Red Sky in Mourning: The True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea.
Directed by Balthasar Kormákur and starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, it’s an honestly amazing film that I can only describe as a poignant Nicholas Sparks novel with genuine peril.
Shailene Woodley is… incredible? She is constantly throwing curveballs at you – each time you think you’ve got her sussed as an actor she does something that shocks you with her talent. She is just a joy to watch, and I was totally floored and transfixed in this performance. She carried the film, and gives a touching, harrowing performance that will stick in the back of your mind for a long time.
I understand the double billing, but Sam Claflin really isn’t the star of this story, character or actor. My issue with Claflin is that I think he has a tendency to be the same person in every role – he’s nice and sweet and charming but I just find him unimpressive? His role in this film is important, but important in how it supports and creates his costar’s story I would say.
The writing is pretty… I would say hit and miss, but the ‘miss’s aren’t quite… miss’s? Do you get what I’m saying? They aren’t fully terrible, just teetering on the line between decent and cringey.
When it’s good, it’s incredible. These incredible moments are mostly, Woodley in her solo scenes on the boat. That opening shot for example – incredible! It’s one long take immediately, so effective and powerful and utterly driven by her performance and I cannot stop thinking about it.
I also am really glad that the film was structured as it was, intercutting between life before and after the storm. At first I didn’t think I would, but it made each side of the story that more touching and was far more interesting than if it were portrayed linearly.
Most notably, I do think the biggest reason why this film does feel so different from your classic ‘lost at sea adventure’ film is that the story is taken directly from a real survivors account. I haven’t read Tami’s book, but the film doesn’t skip over the nasties or dramatise things in order to spice the story up. It doesn’t feel like it deters from the truth, and thats the what’s made it resonate with me to such an extent.
It feels nothing but respectful to the couple’s story.
Tami and her story was I feel was given a lot of consideration in the creation of this film, and I felt that prior to knowing anything about how the production team worked with Oldham herself.
Writers Aaron and Jordan Kandell, with David Branson Smith worked for five years on the screenplay, collaborating with Oldham along the way and it feels so evident.
In terms of casting, Oldham speaks nothing but praise of Woodley, and skyped, emailed and worked in person with the actress portraying her – but Oldham did also respect that Shailene had her “own interpretation” of what she felt she needed to portray after reading the original book herself which really speaks volumes about how at ease she felt, and how must trust she had in the team.
I just think this film really does nothing but respect the ordeal this incredible woman went through.
The cinematography and camera direction is just gorgeous. I’ve already mentioned the long shot the film opens on which just stunned me, but the rest of the shots never tire, get uninteresting or anything other than captivating really.
One truly amazing fact is that over ninety percent of the film was actually shot at sea. IMDb says that “some days began at 4 a.m., with a two-hour boat ride from land. A daily shoot could last up to 12 hours, with no land in sight”.
Which is just MAD. It’s almost unheard of these days. It really paid off, and i’m so glad it was done this way because it really does feel real. It’s obvious to draw comparisons from this film to Life of Pi so I will only do it this once; in Life of Pi, where everything is green screen or CGI, the whole atmosphere of the film feels very cinematic and at times beautiful and magical. In Adrift however, because it is authentic it feels tangible and all consuming – the setting isn’t romanticised and that gives it a real sense of peril to the whole film. It’s an awe-inspiring ordeal for a young woman to have survived, but it doesn’t feel inspiring. I’m not intending that to feel disrespectful, just incase it is coming across that way – I just think, and am glad that I felt the film presented the story with a factual, grim and realistic approach instead of a romanticised ‘adventure’.
Because being stranded at sea for near fifty days whilst severely injured isn’t an adventure.
And of course, the music is really moving – I’m pretty sure it’s the score, created by Oscar nominated Hauschka, that did make me tear up.
While I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to rush out and see this film immediately, I will tell you to consider it more strongly that you maybe perhaps were. And I will say that it lingers a lot more than you’d expect, and only grows on you more and more as time goes on.
I think it will surprise you.
Adrift is in cinemas now.