“When are you going home?” boat-builder Richard Sharp (Sam Clafin) asks. “I don’t know,” says Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley). “Maybe never. I want to see the world.” “On a boat,” he says, “you’re either sunburned, sea sick or hungry – sometimes all at the same time.” “Then why do it?” she says. “It’s an intense feeling,” Richard replies, “I can’t describe it. After a few days, I feel reborn.” That’s the setup for “Adrift.” Tami and Richard meet in Tahiti. He, from England, repairing a boat he built himself; she, a free spirit from California.
Will their chance encounter lead to a serious relationship? Can they sail 4,000 miles across the Pacific? Do they survive a catastrophic storm at sea? For answers, see “Adrift,” based (as Hollywood likes to say) “on a true story.”
Shailene Woodley and Sam Clafin are Tami and Richard, who hire out to sail a 44-foot yacht from Tahiti, across the Pacific Ocean, to San Diego. Richard is experienced, sailing his own boat around the world. “I’d still be in the naval academy,” he says, “if I’d listened to my dad.” Tami, on the other hand, has no sailing experience, leaving California and her dysfunctional family after high school, drifting from one job to another. “Five years later,” she says, “and here I am working in a marina.”
Others in the small cast include Jeffrey Thomas and Elizabeth Hawthorne as Peter and Christine, an older couple, acquainted with Richard, who hire him to sail their yacht back to San Diego when they must fly home. Grace Palmer is Deb, Tami’s latest friend.
“Adrift” is both survival and love story. The two narratives are told at the same time with more than 20 intercutting flashbacks and flash-forwards, from Tami and Richard’s first meeting to the horrific hurricane they encounter halfway across the Pacific. It feels choppy (pun intended) and, while there’s suspense, it’s also slow-going. Directed by Icelandic film-maker Baltasar Kormakur (“Everest” 2015), with dramatic ocean and aerial cinematography by Robert Richardson (Academy Award for “Hugo” 2011), “Adrift’s” sometimes sappy script was written by brothers Aaron and Jordan Kandell and David Branson Smith. “I’ve never met anyone like you,” says Richard. “And I guess I’ve never met anyone like you either,” echoes Tami. Based on Tami Oldham Ashcraft’s memoir, “Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea,” the tale takes place in 1983.
Rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, drugs, nudity and themes, “Adrift” runs 98 minutes. Watch for the plot twist in the final reel.
Survival film “Adrift,”
Key actors, only five;
Plot twist near its end:
“Richard kept me alive.”