Considering it’s simply the story of two people caught in a storm at sea, “Adrift” certainly goes out of its way to confuse.
Told in some odd, flashback, flash-forward style, the film is unsettling throughout. Much of that could be due to director Baltasar Kormakur’s approach. But it also could be due to the paucity of information we have about the two – played by Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin.
She’s a free spirit who takes odd jobs to stay afloat. He’s a veteran sailor who built his own boat. They meet, fall in like, then get an offer to sail someone else’s luxury vessel to California. They go all in, fall in deeper love and appear to be headed toward a Kennedy-esque life.
The aftermath comes early in the film and, through those flashbacks, we’re left to piece together what happened and why. Eventually, we discover -- but not until Kormakur has had a “Life of Pi” moment or two and an erotic scene featuring peanut butter.
Re-edited, “Adrift” might be a good summer adventure. Kormakur, however, wants this to be a bit artier, so he throws a curve and lets his stars consider just what’s at stake.
Both are fine; Woodley proves more daring than you’d think. Because Claflin’s character is severely injured, she’s left to tie up sails, fish, hunt for help and protect both of them.
She works hard for the premise (she’s also a producer). Claflin, meanwhile, spends most of his time at the back of the boat, moaning about injuries and their fate.
When we finally get to see the storm (toward the film’s end), we realize just how serious this is.
Bringing it out earlier might have created a more compelling drama. Where it’s placed just makes us question our investment.
Based on a true story, “Adrift” ends with more background and a look at the real people who were involved in the harrowing adventure. The pictures, alone, raise plenty of questions and could have helped refine the story.
Because we’ve seen others in this same vein, another approach might have been preferable. Somehow, a straight course might have been better for something so circuitous.