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Shailene Woodley leads a tale of survival in “Adrift”

It seems like every other year, Shailene Woodley gets a feature piece here on the site. Some of that may just be due to when her films opt to come out, but I think there’s more to it than that. Frankly, she’s just such an interesting and talented actress, one goes back to her works a lot. This week, she has a new movie opening in Adrift, which I saw last night and really puts her front and center, but in general, it feels like she’s the sort of talent that bears fruitful discussions. So, that’s what we’ll be doing once again. One of these days she’ll be an Oscar nominee. I still firmly believe in that.

This time around, she stars in Adrift, as previously mentioned. It’s a survival drama mixed with a tale of true love. STX Films describes it as such: “Starring Shailene Woodley and Sam Claflin, Adrift is based on the inspiring true story of two free spirits whose chance encounter leads them first to love, and then to the adventure of a lifetime. As the two avid sailors set out on a journey across the ocean, Tami Oldham (Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Claflin) couldn’t anticipate they would be sailing directly into one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in recorded history. In the aftermath of the storm, Tami awakens to find Richard badly injured and their boat in ruins. With no hope for rescue, Tami must find the strength and determination to save herself and the only man she has ever loved. Adrift is the unforgettable story about the resilience of the human spirit and the transcendent power of love.” We watch as Tami and Richard fight for survival on the high seas, all while observing how their romance came to be. Baltasar Kormákur directs a screenplay by the trio of Aaron Kandell, Jordan Kandell, and David Branson Smith, with the rest of the cast rounded out by Elizabeth Hawthorne, Grace Palmer, and Jeffrey Thomas. Volker Bertelmann provides the score, while cinematography is by three time Academy Award winner Robert Richardson.

With the embargo up a few hours ago, I can say that the movie is an excellent Woodley showcase. The film itself is a mixed bag, but she’s aces. The actress is what compels you here, especially as the story repeatedly struggles to find a focus. Watching her try and manage the wrecked ship, attempting to do the impossible and stay alive, that works. The romance between her and Claflin? Not so much. The director and writers seem way too interested in that aspect, considering they bring nothing new to the equation there. The flick is sturdiest when it’s just the actress and the elements conspiring against her.

Here now is an updated look at Woodley’s best performances to date:

Here now are Woodley’s best performances to date:

5. Adrift
4. The Descendants
3. White Bird in a Blizzard
2. The Spectacular Now
1. The Fault in Our Stars

Honorable Mention: Divergent and Snowden

Starting tomorrow, audiences can see Woodley attempt something very different when Adrift hits theaters. It’s a mixture of the physical work she’s done in the Divergent series, along with her more romantic work like The Fault in Our Stars and The Spectacular Now. This sits firmly below those romances (which I think are both rather amazing), though about on par with her YA franchise. Make of that what you will. Woodley fans should be at least moderately satisfied with this one though. If nothing else, it’s another showcase for her ample acting talents. Give it a shot and you’ll see what I mean…

Be sure to check out Woodley in Adrift, opening in theaters this weekend!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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