Movie Beat: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin’s “Adrift” oddly numbing

By Jenniffer Wardell

Rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements

Screenplay by Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, and David Branson Smith

Directed by Baltasar Kormakur

Starring Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer and more

Grade: Two stars


“Adrift” is very… okay.

The movie, which tells the true story of a woman forced to survive adrift at sea for more than a month, has a strange numbing quality to it that makes it feel as though audiences are trying to survive the movie as well. It’s a worthy story, and competently acted and put together, but the result feels suspiciously close to being forced to watch the home movies of complete strangers.

The movie follows a young woman named Tami, a free spirit in the 1980s who meets and falls in love with a sailor named Richard. He asks her to sail to California with him, but they get caught in a storm. The movie alternates between two points in the timeline, starting with the immediate aftermath of the storm and cutting back and forth between that and the development of her and Richard’s relationship and how they got there in the first place.

Shailene Woodley is fine in the lead role, competent but mostly not capable of digging deeply enough to keep us engaged when nothing else is going on. The experience of watching this movie has made me retroactively far more impressed with Tom Hanks’ performance in “Cast Away” – clearly, holding the audience in those circumstances is far more challenging than I realized – but Woodley is mostly numb. While that’s entirely reasonable under the circumstances, it’s not great for audiences.

Surprisingly, she’s at her best during the tender moments between her and Richard, played by Sam Claflin, after the accident. They’re very quiet and loving in a way that has nothing to do with the dialogue, and the closest the movie ever comes to actual poetry.

Claflin is a bit more dynamic as Richard, and though the script limits him to a certain extent he makes the movie more interesting just by being in it. He’s also responsible for the movie’s one real moment of humor, which managed to actually be funny at least in part due to his delivery.

Neither performer can quite save the flashbacks of their romance, unfortunately. They’re perfectly fine, and clearly added to the movie so we feel more invested in their relationship later, but they make the home movie sensation almost overwhelming. There’s nothing particularly engaging about them, average moments that were probably a treasure to live but not terribly engaging to watch.


(Photo ©STX Films)


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