“Adrift” is an emotional true story of survival on the Pacific that will leave you wanting for a bit more.

Adrift Movie Poster

Adrift opens with an unconscious Tami Oldham waking up to find herself in the cabin of a sailboat flooded with water and close to sinking. She works her way to the deck in search of her fiancé to find the boat in ruins. Tami (Shailene Woodley) and Richard (Sam Claflin) were hired to sail a boat from Tahiti to San Diego when in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, they encountered a hurricane leaving them striving for survival.

The film then jumps back to 5 months earlier to 1983 Tahiti. We find Tami arriving in Tahiti (it’s a magical place after all), as she has been randomly traveling around the world. It is in Tahiti that she meets Richard and they instantly fall in love. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, Adrift is based on the true story by Tami Oldham Ashcraft who at the age of 23 had to endure 41 days at sea in the remnants of a sailboat.

Kormákur tells the story through jumping back and forth in time, from the building romance between Richard and Tami to Tami’s fight for survival as she attempts to repair the boat enough to keep it on course to her new destination of Hawaii. She must do this and keep Richard alive who has broken his leg and ribs after being thrown overboard during the storm.

Adrift is obviously made as a love story with the focus being on the relationship of the couple. We have a romantic dinner between the two with long slow pauses, we have the reckless Tami jumping from a cliff into a river with Richard jumping after her, and we have a Polaroid camera at the hands of Richard capturing various moments of their relationship. For me, I probably would have enjoyed the movie a bit more if it were more of a survival story and less smootchy love story. The scenes on the boat are often conversations between the two and little else. Yes, Tami is using Richard as a motivation factor in survival, but excessive sucking of peanut butter from fingers slows the film down.

The acting is excellent, and I have to commend Shailene Woodley’s performance, as she transgressed from the beautiful girl on the beaches of Tahiti, to the starved sickly-looking girl at the end of the film. Does Kormákur feel we wouldn’t have stayed engaged if the story were told in a linear fashion? Do we really need the jumping back and forth in time to keep the audience engaged? When I left the theater, I couldn’t decide if l liked this film or not. Was it the pacing of the film, the edit, or was it the ending and the unnecessary justification for it? Movies like this are hard to write reviews for. When it is a film I like I can discuss what I liked, if it’s a film I didn’t like, it’s easy to focus on the things I didn’t like. With this film there wasn’t much to like or dislike about it, leaving me a bit neutral. So if you want to see it, go see it, if you don’t want to see it, then don’t. Whatever floats your boat as the saying goes.

“Adrift” opens June 29th.

Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” available now.