‘Adrift,’ a woman versus nature



Rating: PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements.

Running time: 2 hours

Grade: Two and a half stars out of four.

By Jocelyn Noveck

AP National Writer

Woman vs. nature. It certainly has a ring to it, especially when woman wins. But there are too few such stories in our popular culture, and certainly on our movie screens.

Enter “Adrift,” based on the harrowing, real-life story of Tami Oldham, who sailed off on a romantic voyage from Tahiti to San Diego in 1983 with her fiance, Richard Sharp, and ran into a brutal hurricane. Oldham wrote of the ordeal – 41 days on the open seas in a damaged 44-foot sailboat – in her book, “Red Sky in Mourning,” and if you haven’t read it yet, good: Stop Googling and see the film first. You’ll be glad you didn’t know all the details beforehand.

Off the bat, “Adrift,” by Icelandic action director Baltasar Kormakur has several things going for it. Kormakur is a lifelong sailor, and he chose to film on the open ocean off Fiji, lending the proceedings an obvious visual urgency. Second, the story is simple and thrilling – because it’s true. And third, Shailene Woodley, one of the most naturalistic young actresses working today, is hard not to root for in any film, and certainly here as Tami, a relaxed California girl suddenly caught in an elemental battle to survive.

Where the film could do better is in painting the characters with nuance and complexity. The scenes on land seem rather perfunctory, if still pleasing and romantic.

Woodley’s honest, unfussy performance seems perfectly tailored to the script by Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith. Claflin makes Richard a dashing, sensitive romantic partner. The story is not complicated – nor does it need to be. Woman vs. sea. Woman triumphs. An apt story for 2018.

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