Review: Adrift

Romantic melodramas adapted from real-life incidents can often feel doubly phony, since the viewer’s consciosness that these things really happened makes the contrivances feel all the more stagey. Adrift, which is adapted from a memoir by Tami Oldham, has a lot of that loose feeling of stretching the truth for the sake of emotional provocation, but since the basic story is dramatic by definition the viewer allows leeway for their reactions.

Oldham (Shailene Woodley) is a young, freedom-obsessed woman who is traveling the world on her wits and her charms, securing employment in one place before accumulating enough money to go to someplace else. In Tahiti in 1983 she’s working on the docks when she meets Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), a charismatic Englishman circumnavigating the world in his own hand-made sailboat. Despite what feels like a marked difference in age that makes Oldham suspicious of Sharp’s attentions, they fall in love, a development that puts a crimp in Oldham’s plans because her goal is to do this beach bum thing for as long as she can, and by herself. The idea of real life beckoning from the near future terrifies her. But Sharp already has the future in hand, and while the source of his income remains fuzzy, he’s obviously got life licked, and when he invites Oldham to help him deliver a yacht for a wealthy couple to their home in San Diego, she takes him up on the offer.

Director Baltasar Kormakur jolts back-and-forth between the idyllic time in Tahiti as Oldham and Sharp get to know each other intimately and at their own pace, and the time they spend alone together on the yacht going across the Pacific. Since Oldham chronicled this journey in her best-selling book, it’s not spoiling anything to say that they run into trouble in the form of a storm that destroys much of the yacht and seriously injures Sharp. Much of the yacht-bound portion of the movie is about Oldham coming up with ways of keeping the yacht seaworthy and staying alive. It’s a movie about physical and emotional extremes, and that makes the melodramatic love story that much more potent. The survival sequences are as good as such sequences get, but they are intensified by the undercurrent of Oldham’s desperation in the face of losing a man she has come to love. Whereas most directors tend to focus on the elements in such movies, showing how small we are in comparison to nature, Kormakur zeroes in on Oldham to show how love is the greatest of all powers.

Now playing in Tokyo at Shinjuku Wald 9 (03-5369-4955).

Adrift home page in Japanese.

photo (c) 2018 STX Financing LLC

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