REVIEW / BIOGRAPHY
96 minutes/Now showing
The story: Tami (Shailene Woodley) is a drifter working odd jobs to pay for her global travels. In Tahiti, she meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a serious solo sailor. They embark on an adventure that will see a hurricane smash their boat in the Pacific, wrecking their sails and steering, and leave them without any means to radio for help. The movie is based on a true story.
As survival stories go, the story of Tami (Woodley) and Richard (Claflin) has great bones - they are young, pretty and in love, and the settings are marinas and beaches of islands in the Pacific.
The film makes great use of these visuals, seen in flashback, because in the present day, Tami is nursing herself, Richard and a wrecked boat.
Flashbacks to happier times take centre stage for at least the first half of the film. Unlike, say, All Is Lost (2013), a fictional account of a man (played by Robert Redford) fighting for survival on a broken yacht, there is not a lot of concern over the "how" here.
There are two kinds of survival adventures: The "hand" movies and the "face" movies. This film falls into the latter category.
Hand movies are all about the clever improvisations done to keep life going.
Here, Tami's face is in frame for much of the time, showing her inner turmoil. There is some explanation about the procedures Tami had to perform to, say, find food or water, or the seamanship required to keep a crippled craft pointed in the right direction over countless kilometres of ocean, but that is just background to Tami's emotional rite of passage.
She grows from something like a flower child - the vegetarian refuses to kill a fish even when facing starvation - to someone capable of closing her own wounds with thread and needle.
Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur does not want to take Tami from guitar-strumming free spirit to post-apocalypse Sarah Connor (of The Terminator films) in 90 minutes, though. As he showed in Everest (2015), another true-life story of survival, he understands that people remain who they essentially are, even in extreme circumstances.
Woodley and Kormakur avoid making Tami cookie-cutter adorable. There is an underlying resolve in her that rises as the days slip by without rescue and Woodley's restrained portrayal makes her feat of survival plausible, while not lessening the pain she endures.