Cinema Review: Adrift

‘It’s amazing, isn’t it, what people are capable of when their life is on the line.’ My companion took the words out of my mouth as we were leaving the cinema after seeing this harrowing but inspiring true story (and which is not to say that either of us could possibly have coped in similar circumstances). It’s 1983, and California girl Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) arrives in Tahiti in her cut-down jeans and T, a backpack and a footloose attitude. She meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a tall dark and handsome English yachtsman, and in a trice they are an item, swimming and fondling in forest lagoons and kissing in the lapping waters of the tropical Pacific before agreeing to sail a boat back to San Diego for friends of Richard. Disaster strikes when they are caught up in a cyclone that leaves the vessel smashed but still afloat. This is when the story opens, before proceeding to be told through flashbacks – there is no other way to maintain interest in two people floating alone on the ocean without breaking up their ordeal with back story, old hat though it might be. Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur is no novice when dealing with the briny, having made The Sea (2002) and The Deep (2012), so you you know you can rely on him to not fall back on clichéd shots of a shark circling Tami’s slender legs at every opportunity – there is much more to it than that. The surprise – not least of all concerning Richard’s gangrenous black foot – doesn’t come until the end, when what was really going on during the forty-one days of the yacht floating powerless on the wine-dark sea is revealed. A drama that explores how we cope with psychological as well as physical and emotional stress (not unlike last year’s The Mercy, it is held together by Woodley’s sunburnt, salt-blasted grittiness and the cinematography of multiple Oscar winner Robert Richardson. Visually stunning, the storm at sea, if experienced a bit late, is terrifying.  

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