Sandra Bullock survived on her own in space in Gravity. Blake Lively fought sharks as a soloist in The Shallows. Now, it’s a resilient Shailene Woodley navigating the seas in Adrift, a survivalist drama that keeps itself afloat (pun not intended) due to its stunning central performance and a distinguished romantic mentality that sets it apart from the usual endurance fare.
Based on the heartbreaking true life account of sailors Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp (Oldham penning the biography Red Sky in Mourning which served as the basis for Adrift’s screenplay), the film introduces us to Tami (a wholly dedicated Woodley) as a somewhat aimless traveller whose tales of a rough Californian childhood have clearly spurred her worldwide adventures. She places herself in destinations just long enough to earn the right amount of money to send her on her way, and it’s as she’s working as a deckhand in Tahiti that she meets Richard (Sam Claflin, naturally charming), a slightly older gentleman who near-instantly falls for Tami on first sight.
Though only together for a few short months, the forever-love the two speak of for each other feels organic, and it helps ground Adrift as we genuinely care for their well-being when their eventual cross-ocean sail results in tragedy; director Baltasar Kormakur (Everest, 2 Guns) wisely setting the film non-linearly as it shifts back and forth between a panicked Tami and an injured Richard trying to navigate their way to safety with the more tender moments leading up to their tragic circumstance.
Despite director Kormakur having worked on sizeably budgeted action films, Adrift feels remarkably low-key and rather intimate (Woodley and Claflin are essentially the only two people on screen), with only the sequence involving Tami and Richard’s yacht perishing against the rough seas and extended waves coming off as the most “Hollywood” of moments. It’s really quite a simple film, but it’s one that utilises its premise and singular setting to the best effect, with emotion running high throughout, particularly towards the closing moments when we witness the rough seas that act as the couple’s would-be death sentence.
Though tragic and supremely emotional, Adrift ultimately highlights the power of one’s hope and will to survive, with Woodley failing to weaken at any moment; this is a powerful, dedicated performance – one that stands as an enactment so strong, it’s worth the price of admission alone.
Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp couldn’t anticipate that they would be sailing directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami awakens to find Richard badly injured and their boat in ruins. With no hope of rescue, Tami must now find the strength and determination to save herself and the only man she has ever loved.
Adrift is in cinemas from 28th June 2018.