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Movie review: Two-dimensional love story and lack of tension leave audiences 'Adrift'
Sam Claflin and Shailene Woodley star in Adrift." - photo by Josh Terry
ADRIFT 2 stars Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin, Grace Palmer, Jeffrey Thomas, Elizabeth Hawthorne; PG-13 (injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements); in general release

Adrift is based on a true story, and that may be its biggest problem.

Baltasar Kormakurs film is adapted from Red Sky in Mourning, a book about a young couple that encounters a hurricane while crossing the Pacific Ocean.

The story is broken into two threads that toggle back and forth. In the first, we meet Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley), a young drifter stranded on a sinking sailboat. As she scrambles to repair the damage presumably brought on by a catastrophic storm she desperately searches for her missing companion, Richard (Sam Claflin).

The second thread is an extended flashback that jumps back five months to trace the couples story up to the storm. Shortly after arriving in Tahiti, several years after leaving her San Diego home to travel the world, Tami meets Richard, a fellow free spirit who built his own sailboat.

They quickly fall in love and are several months into a kind of idyllic romantic sailing existence when they run into a wealthy couple that knows Richard. Peter (Jeffrey Thomas) and Christine (Elizabeth Hawthorne) need to catch a quick flight home to London, so they offer Tami and Richard $10,000 and a pair of first-class plane tickets to sail their boat 4,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean to California for them.

Back in the post-storm thread, Tami is eventually able to find Richard, clinging to life on a dinghy with a broken leg and several broken ribs. She hauls him onto the crippled boat and manages to set a desperate course, hoping to make it to Hawaii before their food runs out, Richard succumbs to his injuries or another storm comes to finish the job.

Kromakur tries to create tension as the audience waits for the first thread to arrive at the coming storm, while wondering if the second thread will end in a dramatic rescue. But since weve already seen the aftermath of the storm and have been told that were watching a true story, theres only so much tension to build.

Instead, were left with the dynamic between Tami and Richard, which, though Woodley and Claflin are more than up to the task, sinks under the weight of a linear, uneventful narrative. For Tami and Richard, its pretty much love at first sight, and romantically speaking, its smooth sailing from there.

A late twist helps things a little bit, and Adrift is packed full of gorgeous imagery including a wealth of stunning sunsets but its too easy to let your mind wander to All is Lost, J.C. Chandors superior 2013 film that put Robert Redford in a similar predicament. Chandors effort paired the hopeless isolation of Redfords situation against the protagonists uncanny methodical effort to problem-solve his way out of his watery pickle, but Adrift just seems to lack that cohesion.

Its interesting to consider whether a different narrative approach would have helped or hurt, but the sad reality of having to stick with a true story anchored by a two-dimensional love story (at least two-dimensional according to what were seeing here) ultimately sinks Adrift. Unfortunately, the drama of living the experience just hasnt translated to watching it on the screen.

Adrift is rated PG-13 for injury images, peril, language, brief drug use, partial nudity and thematic elements; running time: 117 minutes.