Directed by: Baltasar Kormákur
Written by: Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, David Branson Smith
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin

Review by Mia Santos

Going into the film Adrift I wasn’t sure what to expect. I knew very little about the true story the film is based off of. From the trailer it looked like it would be a tear jerking, romantic drama but upon screening it I wasn’t ready for this heroic tale of this bad ass woman fighting for survival while lost at sea.  The film begins with Tami, played by Shailene Woodley waking up inside a flooded cabin of a yacht after a hurricane. She is injured with a giant gash on her forehead and debris is floating all around her. She tries to open the door to get on deck but is trapped. She uses blunt force and manages to get it open. The yacht however is a mess and badly destroyed. Her partner Richard, played by Sam Claflin is nowhere to be seen and Tami immediately falls to her feet in tears.

Instead of telling the story in linear, front to back fashion the film actually jumps between past and present to better engage and show us what lead Tami and Richard into this nightmare. The film is primarily told through Tami’s eyes. She is a 23 year old woman who had been travelling the world, picking up odd jobs here and there and settling for a little bit in Tahiti while she figures out where to go next. While working on the docks she meets Richard who immediately catches her eye. They have an immediate connection and while on a first date on his boat she asks him about his time sailing. Richard replies that it can be very lonely and mentions how after awhile of just open seas you tend to hallucinate. After a few dates between them we watch them fall in love.

The film then jumps back to Tami stranded on this damaged boat in the middle of no where hopelessly looking for Richard, calling out his name, using binoculars desperately hoping to see something. She then spots a small, overturned dinghy with Richard on it. After doing some quick repairs on the yacht including a make-shift sail and taping up the cracks using duct tape, she rescues Richard who is badly injured and unable to help. Upon searching for food and water in the cabin she finds a watch and sextant (a navigation tool) to help guide her to the closest landmass of Hilo Hawaii, which is still 1,500 miles away from where she is now. Richard is her voice of reason and guides her as she struggles to put the yacht back on course. He pushes her to stay positive when she fears for the worst.

The water portions in the film were primarily shot on location which is no easy feat and usually a rare filmmaking decision with the availability of CGI and VFX talent. However director Baltasar Kormákur, who is a sailor himself insisted on it. Shailene Woodley also has a producer credit as well as starring in the film. I was first introduced to Shailene Woodley the same way many were through the ABC Family show The Secret Life Of An American Teenager. It was bad, the acting was even worse and that series finale should have gotten a Raspberry Award for being so poorly written. I didn’t expect to see anyone from that show succeed but Shailene Woodley has proved me wrong with her recent roles and award nods in movies like The Descendants and HBO’s hit show Big Little Lies.  Her acting in Adrift continues to show us how dedicated and talented she is in her craft performing a majority of her own stunts and enduring 90% of the film that is shot on open ocean. She really did capture Tami’s strength for survival and her intuition with working with nature to get her back to safety. Shailene Woodley really embodies Tami’s connection with mother nature and care-free spirit that kept her alive.

The real life Tami Oldham who still sails today at 58 years old, was 41 days adrift after enduring the treacherous seas during a category 5 hurricane before reaching Hawaii and finally being rescued. Seeing this woman’s incredible resilience and hope reenacted on screen as she keeps herself and her horribly injured fiancĂ©e alive really puts your life in perspective. It’s difficult to fathom at times a person could survive through so much after losing everything and better yet, be stranded in the ocean for over a month! The relationship between her and Richard is also very touching and supportive. Claflin and Woodley have great on screen couple chemistry! You really root for both of them! There is a very strong romantic element that would make this film perfect for a date night. There is a scene in the film where Tami doesn’t want to follow Richard on a journey that is offered to him. He is asked to take a yacht from Tahiti to California for a substantial amount of money but upon hearing Tami’s concerns he simply tells her “I travelled half the world to find you. I’m not going anywhere without you.” Adrift really demonstrates the highs and lows that life can bring you and the love and devotion in a relationship that keep people moving forward in the toughest of times.


I have a feeling this film will be overlooked with all the blockbusters out right now but I think it’s worth a view on the big screen. There aren’t enough stories of empowering women overcoming life obstacles being told in cinema and this one is just told so well. It’s also beautifully shot since most of it was done on location. The open seas are gorgeous when calm, Tahiti looks like a paradise and you really feel like you’re going through this harrowing experience with Tami and Richard.

For those of you who are like me and go in knowing very little details about the actual true story, there is a beautiful, little twist that caught me by surprise and elevated the enjoyment of the film for me quite a bit. Bring Kleenex though, you will most definitely need it.

Mia Santos
Mia is a Toronto based writer and filmmaker. She is a self proclaimed comic book nerd, film buff and cat enthusiast. She has one short film under her belt titled Catch Up (2012) and you can read more of her film reviews on her blog The Catty Critic on WordPress.

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