‘Adrift’: A woman vs. na­ture tale for the MeToo era

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - ARTS & CULTURE - RE­VIEW By Jo­ce­lyn Noveck

NEW YORK: Woman vs. na­ture. It cer­tainly has a ring to it, es­pe­cially when the woman wins. But there are far 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 (“Ever­est”), has sev­eral things go­ing for it. First of all, 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. This is less nec­es­sary in the scenes on wa­ter — we have all the ex­cite­ment we need there. But the scenes on land seem rather per­func­tory, if still pleas­ing and ro­man­tic (noth­ing wrong with watch­ing two at­trac­tive, tanned young peo­ple fall in love.)

We be­gin with Tami wak­ing up af­ter an ob­vi­ous catas­tro­phe, the boat prac­ti­cally de­stroyed. Stum­bling around the wreck­age, she comes to the dev­as­tat­ing re­al­iza­tion that Richard (Sam Claflin), the more ex­pe­ri­enced sailor of the two, is nowhere to be seen.

Flash­back to five months ear­lier, when Tami ar­rives in Tahiti, a 23year-old free spirit with no clear life plans. All she wants to do is see the world. She gets an odd job at the ma­rina, where one day she meets Richard, a hand­some young Brit who built his own boat and spends his life sail­ing.

These two good-look­ing creatures are im­me­di­ately drawn to each other, and spend idyl­lic days sail­ing, cook­ing, drink­ing wine. Star­ing at the crim­son sky one day, Tami pro­claims it to be red. Richard quickly cor­rects her: Its “beet-dyed pome­gran­ate,” OK, we get why she’s fall­ing in love.

Then an ir­re­sistible op­por­tu­nity arises: An older cou­ple wants Richard to sail their boat back from Tahiti to San Diego. The terms are too at­trac­tive to pass up. Tami over­comes her ini­tial re­luc­tance to cut short her own, in­de­pen­dent jour­ney, and they head off into the deep blue.

Then dis­as­ter strikes, and sud­denly these ex­ceed­ingly ca­pa­ble peo­ple seem help­less against the fe­roc­ity of na­ture. At the worst mo­ment, Richard fas­tens him­self in, and shouts to Tami through the rag­ing winds to go down be­low, where she’ll be safer.

The ac­tion tog­gles back and forth be­tween happy scenes on land, and the ordeal at sea, which show Tami fig­ur­ing out a way to stop the boat from sink­ing, then pulling a badly in­jured Richard from the waters and car­ing for his wounds while she tries to nav­i­gate, us­ing nau­ti­cal maps and her own des­per­ate cre­ativ­ity. The land scenes pro­vide some in­ter­mit­tent re­lief; on the other hand, they do stall the sus­pense.

The cou­ple’s risky goal is to reach Hawaii, and Tami knows that if she makes an er­ror, they’ll die. She must also fig­ure out how to ra­tion fresh wa­ter and mea­gre food sup­plies, which con­sist of sar­dines, Spam and a jar of peanut but­ter. A com­mit­ted vege­tar­ian, she must cope with the re­al­ity that if she can’t kill and eat fish, she prob­a­bly won’t make it.

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.

“Adrift” is show­ing in Beirut-area cin­e­mas.

Shai­lene Wood­ley bat­tles the el­e­ments in “Adrift.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.