Here’s a brief conversation between myself and my girlfriend while watching Adrift:
Girlfriend: How long is this movie?
Me: Two hours.
Girlfriend: How much longer do we have?
Me: *looks at watch* an hour.
Girlfriend: *sighs* I feel Shailene Woodley’s pain.
I wasn’t in nearly as much pain watching this movie as my girlfriend was, but this brief conversation sums up a lot of how I feel about Adrift, a poorly constructed, overlong melodrama at sea.
The opening scene of the movie really hooked me, as we open on a discombobulated woman who has just woken up on the bottom level of a wrecked ship that is flooding rapidly. In a tizzy, she begins to scream for Richard, but she isn’t getting a response. She gets to the top deck of the boat and sees the wreckage. This opening scene set a mood of tension, peril, and intrigue.
However, all that tension and intrigue vanishes immediately, as we jump back in time to well before this crash and meet Tami (Shailene Woodley), a traveler who bounces from country to country finding odd jobs until she can afford to move onto the next country. Tami meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a charming British man with a really nice boat and the two begin to fall for each other.
The worst aspect of this movie is that we jump back and forth in time constantly throughout the movie. One moment we’re on the boat, the next we are watching Tami and Richard’s relationship grow. The problem with this is that only the boat stuff is interesting. Watching Tami and Richard get into a relationship is incredibly flat. We have no sense of time of how long they have been together and all we see is them hanging out on a beach. There is no drama in their relationship. Everything seems to be as perfect as can be and it is an absolute bore to watch.
On the boat, we actually watch struggle and pain. We watch as Tami has to be resourceful and quick on her feet as she tries to get her and Richard to some land while Richard lays with a broken ribs and a shattered leg. There are actual stakes here, and we learn more about the characters in this part of the movie that we do in the romantic part. Unfortunately, we are in the romantic part of the movie for about half the runtime and that takes away from more depth and character development on the boat.
This time jump also glosses over the actual accident and showing the actual intensity of it. They begin to show it, but then cut back in time, killing all exhilaration and intensity in the sequence. Why couldn’t they just cut the movie in a conventional way? This is a case of unnecessarily doing too much. In the two hour run time, you can establish the love story in the first half hour, the accident just after, and then the survival for the rest of the film. This would have made the movie flow better and given us a more cohesive understanding of the characters. Instead, the movie drags the entire time and consistently loses steam.
Woodley is sensational in this movie. I bought every bit of her performance. Even in the romantic sequence that I didn’t like, I thought she was lovely. Her performance would have been even better if the story was told more conventionally or if the whole movie was on the boat, which is where she shines. Claflin is fine. He’s charming and has a nice smile. But this is Woodley’s movie and she crushes it.
There is a good movie somewhere in Adrift, it’s just not what is on screen. While Woodley is great and everything on the boat is interesting, the bouncing back and forth in time between the boat and the love story ruins all momentum and interesting character arcs that happen while on the ship.
Did you see Adrift? What did you think? Comment below or hit me up on Twitter and Instagram, @kevflix, or on Facebook by searching Kevflix.