Adrift (2018)

“Will you sail around the world with me?”

Fueled by the altruistic fate of requited love and the oceanic odyssey demanded to navigate and survive Mother Nature’s harshest elements out in the middle of nowhere, Adrift showcases the resourcefulness and the resiliency of the human spirit as well as our intermittent strength to endure dire catastrophe. Somewhere out there – dancing between the maudlin and the mundane – dwells an inferior version of this film which lacks prescient vision and precise execution, and while it’s a bit too jumbled and about 15 minutes too long for my liking, Adrift floats above surface level and allows us to understand the trauma of love at first sight, first fight, and ultimately at first flight.

Adrift opens with an ominous, hazy dream that’s swallowed up by the sea, only to belly up to surface level and tell a true story worth being told. Quite fittingly, this is a film about the resurrection of clashing ideologies and self-designated mantras, about how they can gel together through fits of flirtation, and how the preserved nature of identity can be especially resonant during serious bouts of internal or physical crisis. The minimalism of it all allows the characters to think deeper and harder, and to find each other just before we find them together. Adrift may be unsure of its genre classification, but it’s always aware of its tone and its style. I quite liked this picture, and with a few tweaks, I might’ve even loved it.

In this iteration of a long-lost true story, it’s 1983 and Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) left home with no intention of looking back, working odd jobs here and there with an inner wanderlust navigational grid guiding her passport from one country to the next. She meets Richard (Sam Claflin), an older guy who’s sailed the world over, and the two share the kind of strong knot most romantic dramas insist on untying; Tami and Richard simply understand each other, and as fate would have it, their paths crossed at just the right time. In this regard, Adrift is a film about promised affirmations and our ability to fall in love with the entirety of a person instead of an idea or a faint iteration. Life is complex – as is love – and perhaps that’s why we associate them as one and romanticize them as two; such backwards reasoning allows us to feel full whether we’re indulging in sappy theatrics or fasting from fear, and all the while we never go wanting. The film sure knows how to fill a hole with a whole.

It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by movies like Adrift. As shown in the trailer, everything builds up to The Perfect Storm and from there we’re left to reckon with the ravage. Director Baltasar Kormákur has something more complex in mind, and his screenwriters change things up by flip-flopping through time. It’s the kind of decision I typically loathe; normally this signifies a lack of vision. This time though, Adrift micro-manages its calamity and its catharsis through its careful editing, shaping a movie that’s both lovely and incriminating – and because of the structure – never as exhausting or intimidating as it should be. The strong direction, the resilient and physical performances from Woodley and Claflin, and the literally moving cinematography by the legendary Robert Richardson all combine and coalesce into a singular vision of hope and faith in the face of adversity. Sometimes you have to release the reigns in order to get a grasp on life.

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

Rating: 4 out of 5

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