Based on a true story, the new movie Adrift features an amalgamation of a few different film genres and types. Tami (Shailene Woodley) is on vacation in Tahiti with friends and meets Richard (Sam Claflin), a sailor who loves the open water. The two spend more and more time together and when he’s offered the chance to sail someone’s boat back to California, she joins him, figuring it will be a wonderful and romantic time.
Things take a turn when they unexpectedly encounter a massive hurricane that almost destroys their small boat. Richard is injured, the boat’s mast is broken and they don’t have navigational instruments, meaning they’re largely dead in the water. Tami, though, patches the boat and gets them on a course that will hopefully lead them right to Hawaii, where they can be rescued. That’s an awful lot of “ifs,” though.
That the movie takes place on the open water of the sea and that it’s based on a true story are the two primary messages of the first teaser poster. In fact the only additional shared here are the title and the names of the two leads, so the hope is that people will be lured in by the promise of some seafaring drama. The second brings the two leads more into focus, showing them at the top with their foreheads touching while at the bottom we see their crippled boat in the middle of the water, her looking out at the horizon for any sign of help.
Tami and Richard meet cute at the beginning of the trailer, he attracted to her free spirit and looks and her attracted to his free spirit and looks. When he accepts a job to sail someone’s boat back to California from Tahiti (it’s a magical place) he invites her along and she accepts, despite the unknowns of being at sea that long. When disaster strikes and they’re caught in the middle of a massive hurricane they’re left adrift (natch) with almost no way to navigate and no power, thousands of miles from anywhere. With Richard injured it’s up to Tami to keep them going toward a slim hope at survival.
There’s some good stuff in here and it certainly looks both dramatic and romantic, which is the point. You could make a joke about Claflin really owning the niche of “romantic lead unable to move” but I won’t. It is cool to see a story where the woman is the one who refuses to give up, though, and keeps doing what needs to be done to make it to the next step.
We skip some of the setup in the next trailer and get right to when Tami and Richard are already in a relationship, eventually agreeing to sail a man’s boat back to California. That quickly transitions to an extended look at the massive, hurricane-induced wave that capsized the boat and sets them adrift, injuring him and forcing her to work to keep the two of them alive until they can reach shore or be rescued. This one does away with much of the story and gets right to the dramatic struggle between life and death that provides, it seems, much of the movie’s drama.
Online and Social
When you load the movie’s official website you have the immediate option of watching the second trailer. After that plays the splash page has full-motion video in the background, a big button encouraging you to buy tickets and links to the film’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.
The content of the site, accessible via the menu at the top of the page, is pretty standard. “Trailers” has both of the trailers, “Story” has a decent synopsis and cast/crew list and “Gallery” has a decent collection of photos both from the movie and its production.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
There were quite a number of TV commercials produced, some short ones that skipped right to the hurricane action, some short ones that focused more on the love story and adventure of sailing.
The movie was one of the first to be advertised via Snapchat’s recently-unveiled unskippable six-second video ad units.
Media and Publicity
After being homeless for a while STX finally gave the movie a release date of early June, filling a whole left when Fox moved Deadpool 2. It was later part of the studio’s presentation to industry executives at CinemaCon.
Woodley later appeared on the late night talk show circuit to talk about the movie, specifically about the experience of filming on the water for such a long time, including getting seasick as a crew. She, Claflin and director Baltasar Kormakur all talked about the real life story and what it was like making the movie at the premiere. Kormakur was later interviewed on his own about many of the same topics.
As I said at the outset, there are bits and pieces of several different genres coming together here. It’s very much a romance of the Nicholas Sparks variety, about two people who just happen to find each other while in a place they wouldn’t usually be. But it’s also a story of survival against nature in the vein of The Perfect Storm or, more recently, All Is Lost. That’s not a knock against it, just an observation of what’s going on.
Aside from the likability of its stars, the main thing the movie seems to have going for it is that it’s the kind of thing that doesn’t pop up very often anymore. Yes, it’s a romance but it’s not nearly as cloy or cliched as many movies that fall into that category. By telling a story of a young woman’s ability to take charge and get her and man she’s with out of danger it seems to be sending the message that yes, you can have it all, ladies. That’s a good thing and an important theme to hit as often as possible.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
New interviews with both star Shailene Woodley and director Baltasar Kormákur offer insights into the story and process of making the movie, though the latter contains significant spoilers so beware.