Director: Balastar Kormakur
Cast: Shailene Woodley and Sam Clafin
Released: June 1, 2018
Viewed in theaters: June 7, 2018
I first saw a preview for this film when I saw Ready Player One and at first I thought it was the latest Nicholas Sparks novel to be adapted to film because it showed a young couple being all lovey-dovey and about to set sail and I was like, hard pass. But that was only the first thirty seconds and the rest of the trailer continued to show that it was NOT based on a Nicholas Sparks novel (or any fictional novel for that matter...it is based on a memoir called Red Sky in Mourning) and that it was based on a true story about a couple, Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp who go on a sailing expedition where there's a nasty storm and their boat capsizes. I love survival stories so I was sold on seeing it.
I never did look up the story it was based on before watching it. I figured I would remember it once the movie got going because I just assumed it was a recent (like within the last ten years at least) thing that happened. However, when it is revealed that the movie takes place in 1983, I didn't feel so bad for not having any recollection of this event at all!
The film opens up right after the storm (which we will learn was a Category 4 hurricane) and we see a banged-up Tami (Shailene Woodley) in the flooded cabin with debris all around her. She's screaming for Richard, who, at this point of the film, is her fiance. When she makes her way to the outside of the boat, she will find the sail has been completely torn. The film goes back and fourth from the characters being shipwrecked to five months earlier when they first met each other and how they found themselves going on a sailing expedition.
Twenty-four-year-old Tami hasn't been home to San Diego since she left after graduating high school. She and a friend headed to Mexico where they made salsa and surfed. She thought she would only be there for six months, but it turned into seven years and now, in 1983, she finds herself in Tahiti after spending time working on a schooner. She meets Richard, who is nine years her senior and a sailor from England. Tami is very impressed that he made his own boat and he takes her out sailing. One thing leads to another and the two quickly fall in love. He asks her to sail around the world with him and both agree they've always wanted to sail to Japan. However, their plans are thwarted when an elderly rich British couple who know Richard ask him if he can sail their 44-foot yacht, the Hazana, to San Diego. They have also offered to pay him $10,000 and a first class ticket back to Tahiti. When Richard asks if they can make it two tickets, they don't even blink. Tami isn't too thrilled about this because she's not ready "to go home yet" and I'm thinking, girl, are you kidding me? You're going to be sailing halfway around the world in this luxury sailboat, the two of you are going to have plenty of money to take a year off and sail around the world, and they're giving you tickets back to Tahiti so you don't have to stay in San Diego. Just see your mom and say hello, then head back. Everything sounds great in theory, but of course, the voyage to sail the Hazana doesn't go as planned. But she does agree to go with Richard when he says he won't do the trip without her because he loves her. He makes her a ring and proposes to her. By this time they've known each other for five months, so they've fallen pretty hard for each other. Tami writes a letter to her mom to tell her she'll be in San Diego in a few weeks and she's bringing her boyfriend and that "he might be the one" (she wrote the letter before he proposed, btw!)
After Tami accesses the damage to the boat and starts fixing up it up and herself up (she has a nasty gash on one of her temples), she sees Richard limply hanging from a lifeboat and screams to him that she's coming to get him. She falls off the boat as she's attempting to fix the sail and the boat is moving away at a scary pace (not to mention moving even further away from Richard), but she proves herself to be a strong swimmer and catches up to the boat, though she is panting and heaving. We see her fixing the damaged boat as best she can; good thing she's had experience! When it's good as can be under the circumstances, she sails toward him. It should be mentioned that all the radios to contact anyone have stopped working and she is unable to get any help.
She swims out and rescues Richard whose leg is in pretty bad shape and he is unable to move, so Tami has to do all the work and steering of the ship. Math is not her strong suit so she is worried about getting the coordinates right. She knows they are in a search area way too big for them to be found and they aren't even in any flight zones or shipping zones. She believes her best best is to head toward Hawaii.
She finds as many rations as she can which includes peanut butter and alcohol hidden under a seat (which she also uses on Richard's leg), but they don't last too long and soon realizes that she's going to have to use the spear to catch fish. Richard is adamant about this, but Tami, who is a vegetarian because she loves all living things and doesn't want to any creature to suffer. Girl, I hear you, but I think in cases like this, you need to think of yourself first and get the food so you don't die. She is unable to do it the first time, claiming it too hard, but eventually she gets the hang of it and forces herself to eat the fish.
At one point she wakes up to find a huge barge baring down them and it looks like the thing is going to steamroll right over them. Tami is shooting her flare gun, but it just passes them and disappears into the night. Tami wonders if she actually saw the thing or if she was hallucinating and starts crying, wondering if they will ever be rescued.
The movie keeps us update to date how many days adrift they've been (and it will be a total of 41 days). Richard tells Tami he wishes that she had never met him because then she would never be in this mess and she tells him she doesn't regret a single moment.
All right, about to get in spoiler territory so continue at your own risk!
You guys are going to think I'm a total moron. Okay, so I was totally duped by the movie. I should have seen it coming. It should have been so obvious. Richard was dead the entire time. Well, not the ENTIRE time...he was certainly alive and real pre-storm, but was killed during the storm. Watching this, it suddenly made sense to me why the pre-storm scenes and the post-storm scenes alternated and why we didn't see the actual storm until near the end of the movie. When they realize they are in the path of a category 4 hurricane, they decide to alter their route, but it's not enough to diverge from the path of the storm. They are caught in the storm with 160 mph winds and 50 foot waves (I looked up some info on the incident). That has to be the scariest thing ever, even for the most experienced of sailers like Richard was. He tells Tami to go in the cabin as he's trying to steer the boat out of the storm...or something. I'm not sure what he's trying to do, but it seems like nothing would really help them at that point. A huge wave crashes over them and the boat just turns over and over and Tami is flung around in the cabin. Apparently she was unconscious for 27 hours, though we never get that from the movie; I found that out while doing research. It's amazing she wasn't even more banged up than she was or didn't have any broken bones. Richard is swept out to sea and we see him sinking in the ocean. At this point, I'm thinking, huh. We go back to Tami being adrift and at this part, she's probably nearing forty days of being lost at sea. We see a close up of her and she's crying and she says "It's time to let you go now" and the camera pans back to reveal the area behind her is empty, the area where Richard was. This whole time he was dead and she was imagining him there. Sure, we get that scene earlier where she thought she had hallucinated that barge, but I don't believe she was hallucinating that Richard was there, even though it seems that's what the movie wants us to believe. For one thing, the real person this is based knew right away her fiance was dead. This was just a detail they added to the movie to make it more compelling for those who weren't familiar with the story. Also, she never freaks out about him being "gone" all of a sudden. She seems to be well aware that he wasn't there the whole time and was just imagining that he was there to help her guide her to rescue, which she eventually does when a land bird flies to her boat and when it flies off again, she steers the boat towards that direction where she will eventually see a Japanese cargo ship and is rescued. It appears in the real story, she sailed to Hawaii and was rescued there.
Despite the obvious clues, I really should have figured this love story was going to end tragically. You have one half of the couple from Me Before You and one half of the couple from The Fault In Our Stars - this is just asking for a calamitous ending.
By the way, the poster for this movie (Google it) totally rips off Titanic...another love story that ends tragically!