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Cottonwood Heights Journal

Dan's Review: "Adrift" isn't a romantic drama wreck

Jun 02, 2018 02:22PM ● By Dan Metcalf

Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin in Adrift - © 2018 STX Films.

Adrift (STX Films)

Rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements.

Starring Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Grace Palmer.

Written by Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith, based on "Red Sky at Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea"

by Tami Oldham Ashcraft and Susea McGearhart.

Directed by Baltasar Kormákur.



True stories are always tricky when transferred to film.  Yeah, there’s always the “based on” factor, which is code for “we made up most of this,” or “based on true events,” which is code for “a couple of names are the same as real people, but we made up the rest of it.” Adrift, the true story of Tami Oldham’s incredible survival at sea is tagged with “a true story,” giving it much more credibility than most “true” stories.

Shailene Woodley plays Tami, a free-spirit world traveler who meets Richard (Sam Claflin) in 1983 during a stop in Fiji. They fall in love, and when they are offered a chance to sail a wealthy couple’s sailing yacht from Fiji to California, they take off for what seems like a romantic adventure. Less than three weeks into their journey, Hurricane Raymond hits. The storm damages the boat, washes Richard out to sea and knocks Tami unconscious. When she awakens, Tami begins to salvage what she can and searches for Richard. When she locates her lover clinging to some of the wreckage, he is suffering from a compound leg fracture, broken ribs and exposure. In desperation, Tami uses her wits to turn the boat toward Hawaii, in hopes of rescue. Along the way, she flashes back to her life with Richard before the accident, looking for inspiration to keep going.

Adrift is a well-managed romantic drama, with spectacular ocean views and tense moments of chaos. Woodley’s performance is noteworthy, as she captures the spirit of adventure, loss, determination and survival throughout the movie, making for a mostly enjoyable experience. Some of the love scenes and dialogue come across as contrived and a little cheesy, like a tourist commercial, but Woodley keeps the drama legitimate when needed.

I should also mention the major plot twist at the end of the film. Don’t worry, Tami doesn’t join ship of drug smugglers or have an alien encounter. It’s a simple change in direction that makes sense, even if the result is less than ideal for Tami. The twist is also very appropriate for a romantic drama, even if you might not like the way Tami faces reality.

Also, Adrift is “mostly” true, which means you can look up Tami’s true story or read the book of her actual experience and know that it’s real.

Adrift Trailer