Being lost at sea is obviously a major test of the human spirit, and anyone who has survived such an ordeal deserves all due credit. But this makes for a challenging setup for a movie, as it consists of hours, days or even weeks of hardly anything happening, and the filmmakers of such a story deserve credit only if they can avoid the boring pitfalls. Adrift deploys a few storytelling tricks to adequately hold viewers’ attention, but the passage of time is still oppressive, though that may very well be purposeful. The running time clocks in at just over an hour and a half, but it feels longer, as we are forced to empathize with being stuck under a harsh sun and at the mercy of dwindling resources.

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Director Baltasar Kormákur employs a two-piece temporal structure for this based-on-a-true-story disaster, cutting back and forth between the fallout from Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) sailing directly into a hurricane and the story of the two meeting in Tahiti that leads to them setting off together on their oceanic voyage. Kormakur is probably best known to American audiences for 2015’s Everest (about the scaling of the titular mountain), and he knows how to utilize the grandeur of nature to thrilling effect. Along with cinematographer Robert Richardson, he captures beautiful vistas that are vast enough to humble even the most adventurous souls. But the most essential groundwork is the chemistry between the central couple. Woodley and Claflin may not have set a new standard for steaminess, but they do convincingly sell the story of two searching individuals who have found their ideal partner.

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Adrift ultimately reveals itself as a how-to survival guide, lingering on the processes for treating injuries, making repairs and fending for yourself. A final-act twist lends a spiritual dimension to that process. It is a dramatically effective way of asking if hope is an illusion. The answer appears to be that it may very well be, but it is an illusion that we should all give in to. I have heard that traveling together is an essential method for testing a relationship, and watching Adrift, I cannot help but think that the life-giving power of a healthy relationship is the tool needed to pass the final exam.

Starring: Shailene Woodley, Sam Claflin

Director: Baltasar Kormákur

Running Time: 96 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Nasty Injuries and Infections and a Little Bit of Nude Meditation Sunbathing

Release Date: June 1, 2018

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