Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) would travel from port to port, taking whatever jobs she could get that would pay her enough to get to the next spot. She never had a real plan, letting life take her wherever it wanted. While working as a dock hand in Tahiti, she meets Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin). The two have an instant connection. Over the next few months, they become inseparable.
Richard gets an offer to sail a boat back to San Diego for a couple who are flying home. It doesn’t take much convincing to get Tami to join him on the journey. On the trip home, Tami and Richard find themselves in the middle of one of the biggest tropical depressions in the Pacific. During the storm, the boat is heavily damaged and Richard is thrown overboard. After finding Richard, Tami pulls him aboard but he is badly injured. Stranded in the middle of the ocean with a disable boat and limited supplies, Tami must find a way to get to land and help to save both their lives.
Adrift is based on the true story of Tami Oldham’s perilous journey through the Pacific Ocean with Richard Sharp. Part love story, part survival story, the film puts you in Tami’s shoes as she tries to find a way to survive.
Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin seem to be made to star in a movie together. Woodley starred in the Divergent series, Claflin was in The Hunger Games. Woodley was in The Fault in Our Stars, Claflin was in Me Before You. Their paths were destined to cross. When the movie is focused on the love story, they have decent enough chemistry to make it believable. When focused on the survival aspects, Woodley musters up the fortitude to do what is necessary. Tami wasn’t an avid sailor, but she was familiar enough with boats to figure out how to keep her and Richard alive for as long as possible. Woodley’s Divergent experience helped drive her performance here, giving her just a touch of badass that gets her through the film. She throws in some of her quirkiness for good measure, just to give a bit of extra depth to the character, though I’m not sure it was needed.
Where the film falls a little flat is in the execution. While it is an amazing story, and reminiscent of 2014’s Unbroken, it never really finds its footing. Jumping through the timeline between Richard and Tami’s meeting and relationship, the build up to the storm, and the aftermath, director Baltasar Kormákur tries to make the film a little more interesting. Instead, it makes for a slow build that you wish would just get where it’s going. The film has a relatively 1 hour 45 minute run time and we don’t get to the storm until more than an hour into it. Even when we get to the storm, it is barely a blip before we skip past it. While this allows us to focus more on the story of Tami’s survival, it makes the storm seem a little insignificant. Kormákur frequently frames the scenes so the camera is half underwater, half above. While this serves to give a sense of the disorientation of the characters, it becomes a bit tiresome. This is coupled with some questionable choices regarding Woodley and her costumes, the whole thing becomes a bit of a distraction.
There have been more than a handful of films that focus on characters stranded hopelessly in the ocean with many of the same thematic elements. Adrift doesn’t add anything new to the category, aside from the love story side of it. It is a passable film, but you can wait for the rental and not feel like you’re missing out.