ADRIFT, based on the 1983 oceanic odyssey of Tami Oldham, marked another feather in the cap (a yachting one, this time) for actress Shailene Woodley, who plays Oldham in this compelling 2018 adventure. She also served as a producer on the $35,000,000 project, which drew positive reviews and pulled in $59,900,000. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur, a proven hand at harrowing survival stories, having manned Iceland’s The Deep in 2012 and the high altitude perils of 2015s Everest.
Free spirit wanderers Tami Oldham (Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) meet and fall in love in Tahiti. They take a job to sail a 44-foot yacht belonging to Richard’s friends, across the Pacific to San Diego. Richard has a good deal of sailing experience, Tami is a quick learner. A few idyllic weeks into the 4,000-mile trip they run into Hurricane Raymond. The cyclone’s 160mph winds and 40-foot waves unmast and half-floods the boat and grievously injures Richard. Communications gone, the engine shot, barely any food on hand, and suffering from wounds herself, Tami tries to get them to Hawaii.
Oldham’s miraculous against-all-odds story is amazing, but in cinematic terms “amazing” also has to be “interesting”, so the script’s interpretation of the events takes a few expected and excusable liberties (no spoilers here). It was written by brothers Aaron & Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith, based off Oldham’s book “Red Sky in Mourning: The True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea.”, which she wrote with Susea McGearhart. Tami approved of the film’s handling of her story.
Sharp is engaging as Richard, but Woodley’s superb physical performance dominates. The get-together romantic material is on the pleasant but predictable side, but the voyage itself is gripping. Filming was done in Fiji, and the seaborne material, both live-action and the added CGI work is heady stuff. Gorgeous camera work is courtesy of Robert Richardson. Arresting adventure makes a good companion piece to Robert Redford’s All Is Lost. 96 minutes.