A tiny boat damaged by a category 4 hurricane in the middle of the largest ocean; that's the premise of Baltasar Kormakur's ("Contraband", "The Deep", "Everest") latest film. It's based on the true story of Tami Oldham Ashcraft's ordeal in 1983.


Tami (played by Shailene Woodley) meets seasoned sailor Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) in Tahiti while she is in the middle of finding herself and discovering the world on her own. The fall in love and are content to hang out in Tahiti until he runs into old friends Peter (Jeffrey Thomas) and Christine (Elizabeth Hawthorne). They hire him to sail their 55-foot sloop back to San Diego for then thousand dollars and a couple of first class plane tickets.


Richard - and Tami - accept the offer and set sail. Things are going well until they are suddenly overcome by Hurricane Raymond which was one of 12 Pacific hurricanes during a unusually busy (and long) hurricane season. With only a glimpse at historical accuracy, the film barely mentions how quickly Raymond increased from a tropical depression to a severe hurricane and how quickly it moved.

The film bounces between Tami's struggle to sail the boat with a completely disabled Richard useless to do anything more than offer advice. She makes repairs, rigs a makeshift sail, rations food, hunts for food and figures out complex navigation using the on-board sextant. This is after she admits (in the beginning of the film) that she is mostly a novice in terms of sailing.


Based on Ashcraft's book Red Sky In Mourning: The True Story of a Woman's Courage and Survival at Sea Kormakur spends an awful lot of time developing the romance between Richard and Tami unlike J.C. Chandor's "All is Lost" (2013) which focused 100% on the struggle of drifting on the open sea.


To her credit, Woodley saves the film by delivering a believable performance of a woman in peril. It's too bad there wasn't more focus on the peril as it was with the romance. Claflin's performance is merely serviceable as he struggles with a believable chemistry with Woodley.


This is Kormakur's third film about personal struggles in adventurous settings - he also directed "Everest" and "The Deep". But this time there were too many details omitted that would have helped; too many unanswered questions. For example why does it take her several days before she looks for salvageable food stowed below? "How did she learn the complexities of navigation is she was such a novice. If she was a vegetarian, how was she so capable of eating meat with out the usual ill-effects?


The film is frustrating as it can't decide if it is a romance or survival story. Kormakur underestimates the mostly female audience's interest in how Tami survives by overloading the love scenes.


"Adrift" barely gets by as a survival story about what had to be an incredible journey. Lack of survival detail diminishes the entertainment value of Tami Ashcraft's perilous ordeal across the Pacific Ocean.   -- GRADE C --   GEOFF BURTON