Wendy Richardson | 24/06/2018

Love has greater power than even the most catastrophic of hurricanes.  Proving this premise is the challenge accepted by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Everest, The Deep and Jar City) in his action adventure drama Adrift.  Based on the real life experiences of Tami Ashcroft, (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Clafin), Kormákur steers his audience through the chance meeting of drifter Tami with Englishman Richard and their subsequent and miraculous journey across the Pacific.

From the opening scene, Kormákur introduces flashback narrative to tell his tale with an underwater scene of apparent devastation switching quickly to a scene of a young woman entering Tahiti.  Her answers to Border Patrol make it clear she’s care-free and simply enjoying life.  These are the credentials that Kormákur ascribes to Tami right from the get-go because it makes her calm bravery in the later parts of the movie totally believable.


When the very English Richard sails onto the scene in his “built by his own hands” Mayaluga sail boat, Kormákur brilliantly captures the delicate uncertainty that surrounds the real-life “I like you, do you like me” dance that occurs through peoples eyes and body language when they first meet. Kormákur ever so slowly introduces that growing relationship.  In fact, it’s such a slow development that you start to think  “hurry up, get a move on”.   Then it hits you … Kormákur is reflecting that painful angst and bitter sweetness that oozes deliciously out of uncertainty in early days of relationships … and he’s captured that feeling of suspended time in the genius of his direction.


Once that relationship has been set, Kormákur introduces Richard’s friends, Peter Crompton (Jeffrey Thomas) and his wife Christine (Elizabeth Hawthorne), owners of the British vessel Hazana. Having to fly back to England for an emergency, the Cromptons ask Richard to sail Hazana back to San Diego for them for a grand fee of $10,000 plus return first class airfare to Tahiti.  When Peter agrees to sweeten the pot with a second first class airfare for Tami, the scene for the commencement of the journey leaks out.


The use of the flashback narrative meant that Kormákur could loop his viewer through two opposing questions … Is the story about how Tami and Richard ended up on the current boat they were on, or is the story about Tami and Richard’s survival of the catastrophic Hurricane Raymond? Kormákur’s artful direction of these two opposing ideas, and his ability to slowly reveal little pieces of either story, mirrored the slow building of a weather pattern from a tropical storm into a hurricane, where all the conditions were right for the story of survival to play out.  This helped to build the suspense of what might otherwise be quite a dull filming of 41 days adrift.


Yet it is in the cinematography of these days on the ocean that the great beauty and poignancy of the movie is revealed.  The final wave that crashes onto the Hazana is cleverly revealed in background to the narrative between the two sailors.  The use of  “Jaws” like music each time Tami has to enter the water ensures the viewer is kept on the edge of their seat. The days at sea drifting are beautifully represented as the continuing love story between Richard and Tami unfolds. Richard and Tami’s repartee on the destroyed Hazana in such dire circumstances, while seeming to be beyond believable, in real life no doubt contributed to actual survival.


Adrift shows the incredible ingenuity of people facing storms in their lives, and how love empowers a person to stretch way beyond their own belief in themselves and their abilities.  Well worth the watch, especially for the final twist in the love story.