Review: Adrift

Adrift (not to be confused with the 2006 horror drama Open Water 2: Adrift) is a meet-cute swept into a Perfect Storm. It’s based on the true story of Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), a couple of young adventure-seekers who encountered a catastrophic hurricane while sailing a 44-foot yacht from Tahiti to San Diego in 1983. The couple was left stranded – injured and adrift – in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. For 41 days.

As the film progressed, I was really wishing I knew the details of the actual events, so I’d have a better sense of just how long the countdown of “days adrift” would go on (and on). That’s why I feel compelled to provide the basic timeline. Beyond that, the less you know going in, the better. If you’ve read Tami’s memoir, “Red Sky in Mourning,” you will certainly watch the film through a different lens. And if you’re at all fearful of the water, this may not be optimal summer viewing.

The film opens in the immediate aftermath of the couple’s boat being severely damaged and flooded as a result of the hurricane force winds and rain, and Tami frantically calling out for her fiancé. It’s revealed that he’s badly injured and it’s basically up to Tami to keep them afloat. A series of flashbacks reveal the circumstances of their serendipitous meeting and courtship, inter-cut with those 41 harrowing days at sea. The end result is a love story wrapped in a disaster movie, overflowing with themes of love, resilience, survival, despair and hope – all set to a standard melodramatic score.

I’m on the fence about the casting of Woodley (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, The Descendants) and Claflin (The Hunger Games, Me Before You, Journey’s End). They are a talented and attractive pair, and he certainly bares a strong resemblance to the real Richard Sharp. But I wasn’t completely sold on the chemistry. So while the elements are all there for Adrift to float your boat – a true story, two strong leads, high stakes and high seas – it remains to be seen if this heart-pounding, heart-wrenching action-drama-romance can make waves at the box office.

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