Some have suggested that Adrift emotionally manipulates its audience by keeping Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) alive via hallucination when in the true story, Sharp sadly died during Hurricane Raymond, leaving Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) to navigate a terribly damaged 44-foot yacht for 41 days . . . alone. As someone who has personally experienced profound grief, I can unequivocally defend this creative choice. First, Tami is said to have relied on the voices in her head to keep her alive, and one of those voices was Richard’s. Again, I reiterate that after having experienced personal grief, I relate to the idea that it’s possible to be propelled by the spirit of someone who has passed, as if they are still present. Had they let the audience in on the secret, the audience would not have felt Richard’s presence in the same way as Tami.
The story of the real Tami and Richard began in September 1983, when they took a 4000-mile sailing job from Hazana to San Diego, where they encountered 40-foot waves and 140 mph winds via the largest storm in the Pacific. With a non-functional electronic navigation system and a radio device that could no longer indicate the boat’s emergency position, Tami used a sextant to change course and accurately navigate to Hawaii. A sextant is a tool that employs celestial navigation, and it was introduced in the 19th century. Had she missed Hawaii due to any navigation error, she’d be dead.
Shailene Woodley delivered one of the best performances of her career. I saw The Fault in Our Stars, and she has grown tremendously since that film. This is a highly physical role, and Woodley is incredibly believable. Knowing it’s a true story certainly helped, but she kept the audience engaged from beginning to end, showing the array of emotions, including panic, defeat, and determination. Each new challenge (food rations, a broken sail, etc. . .) created an edge-of-your-seat intensity that’s up there with Cast Away.