“Adrift” is two movies in one – a mushy romance and a harrowing high-seas adventure tale. I guess it’s like “Titanic” minus the large scale, $165 million from the budget, and about $550 million from its domestic gross (a generous projection based on its $11 million opening weekend). The film is opening on the weekend following “Solo”, and even though that film is performing far below expectations, it’s easy to see why many films wanted to avoid the slot. This is a movie for people who either have no interest in blockbusters or have seen too many of them lately and need a break. Oh, and people who like nautical movies I’m sure will find something to like here.
The film stars Shailene Woodley as Tami Oldham, a drifter who hops from one gorgeous locale to the other, never truly finding meaning or happiness. Things change in Tahiti when she meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a charming sailing enthusiast. Richard loves the open sea and the exhilaration that more than makes up for the sickness, dehydration, and hallucinations that come with lengthy voyages. He loves the sea so much, in fact, that he somewhat chooses it over Tami, opting for an extensive yachting assignment to San Diego rather than taking her to Japan like she wants. The loyal Tami agrees to accompany him, and he proposes to her a few days into their trip.
The couple’s happiness is short-lived, as they soon find themselves trapped in a hurricane. Tami goes below deck, where she’s tossed around the cabin and knocked out for over 24 hours. When she awakens, there’s no sign of Richard. Tami fears the worst, but her fiancé soon appears clinging to an overturned dinghy. With very little understanding of how to steer the damaged vessel, Tami manages to make it over to Richard and pull him onboard. His ribs are cracked and his leg is shattered, but he’s alive, sort of. Unfortunately, he can’t be of much help. It’s up to Tami to get both of them out of this situation, despite being the less knowledgeable of the two when it comes to seafaring. Through determination and a resolve she didn’t know she had, Tami eventually manages to save 100% of the people on the boat.
The film bounces between Tami and Richard’s relationship and the peril following the hurricane. It’s a nice balance – rough scene, sweet scene, rough scene, sweet scene. It’s a good idea to structure the movie this way because neither the romance nor the stranded-at-sea storyline is anything we haven’t seen a hundred times before, so at least this movie is doing something slightly different with its presentation. The relationship is of course tested when it comes to the desperate situation, but love prevails as one might expect, or at least it lasts longer than it should.
My grade for “Adrift” is a B-. I’m giving it that high of a grade because it’s a competent film. The filmmakers have paid a lot of attention to detail in the name of accuracy, especially when it comes to the storm and its effects. The two leads turn in decent performances too, or at least as decent as can be expected with such sappy romantic dialogue (the characters themselves draw attention to how sappy it can be at times). But I’m sorry, this just isn’t that interesting of a film. Its target audience is people like me who have to see a movie every week and will settle for this medium-sized fish in a teensy pond of new releases. It will be forgotten in a week when proper competition sends it to the depths of the box office charts.
“Adrift” is rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity, and thematic elements. Its running time is 96 minutes.