Quick Hit: Sweet but ultimately doesn’t add much to the traditional romdram.
Sam Claflin may be one of the best men in Hollywood that lends the spotlight to his fellow female costars. It’s a refreshing trend – you look at his past work in Catching Fire and Me Before You, and see that the movie is about the female lead, and he’s there to accent her journey, not the way so many other films tell the story in reverse. Another note – not only does he do this, but he does it well – his acting performance doesn’t suffer. This is all a way to open the review of a film that Claflin spends laying down while Shailene Woodley picks up the slack (sailing pun unintended).
Tami (Shailene Woodley) meets Richard (Claflin) while working in a marina in Thailand. After a few dates, they meet a rich couple that Richard knows that asks them to sail their boat over to California, in exchange for some handsome pay and some first class plane tickets. They agree, only to have the boat be wrecked and for Richard to be injured. This means that Tami, admittedly the one that is lacking sailing experience, has to sail them across the ocean and provide whatever sustenance is needed.
The plot is based on a real-life story, and it’s fairly entertaining when taken in with Baltasar Kormákur’s filming technique. He constantly allows the camera to dip beneath the waves and follow the action, and one of the opening scenes is of the wreck itself, which follows Woodley as she is tossed and turned in a circle as the ship is flipped and then rights itself. It’s dizzing work, but it’s handled smoothly and adds a lot to the action. Unfortunately, the film’s format detracts from some solid camerawork by the director and his team.
The film is told in a back and forth format as we flash from the scenes of Richard and Tami meeting to Richard and Tami after the wreck. It absolutely wrecks (pardon the pun) the momentum of the story, and we never really get to feel as if these are real characters. These tales ultimately intercept, of course, but they never quite feel related. The meet-cute and the cheesy first date/romantic comedy dialogue just doesn’t really belong in this film which feels more like a survivalist/woman-against-nature film than a romance. Indeed, it’s hard not to see parallels to other survivalist struggles we’ve watched this year, like Jungle. I think had the film focused more on getting the characters set up and then on Tami’s struggles on the boat, the film would have felt smoother.
This isn’t to say that Woodley doesn’t do a fine job carrying the load, it’s just that she isn’t given much to do in the backstory. Indeed, even the backstory’s backstory (that is, Tami’s reason for being in Thailand) feels thrown together and not quite rocky enough to justify her reaction when asked to return to California for only a few days. But she excels in survivalist mode, frequently showing that things that you look past in normal life become crucial in emergencies. She also helps convey a lot of emotion that the dialogue, and later, lack of dialogue, lacks.
I won’t say more, but will say I was rather surprised at one point in the film, and thought the whole thing was well-handled. I’m going to give the whole thing a “C”.
For more on this film, check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"