Tag Archives: Sam Claflin

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by George Wolf

Opening with an extended take that efficiently moves us from confusion to desperation, director Baltasar Kormakur sets the gripping stakes of Adrift with scant dialog. His closing is equally effective, showcasing a touching humanity with nuance, and hardly a spoken word.

The journey in between is literally harrowing but cinematically uneven, a sometimes gritty testament to survival that is too often satisfied with the path more traveled.

Adapted from a memoir by Tami Oldham (Ashcraft), the film recounts her incredible ordeal surviving over month at sea in the aftermath of 1983’s Hurricane Raymond.

Oldham was traveling the world through odd jobs in exotic locales when she met fiancee Richard Sharp during a stay in Tahiti. Englishman Sharp, an experienced sailor, docked his own vessel and accepted a lucrative offer to sail a friend’s 44-foot yacht back to San Diego.

Oldham, a San Diego native with limited sailing knowledge, came aboard.

Shailene Woodley, also earning a producer credit on the film, stars as Oldham, instantly establishing an important and authentic chemistry with Sam Clafin as Sharp. The nautical metaphors (with Oldham drifting though life until Sharp becomes her anchor) may be hard to miss, but they go down easy through the talents of the lead actors.

A true life adventure such as this brings some inherent challenges to the big screen, and Kormakur meets them with understandably familiar narrative choices.

The time alone at sea is layered with flashbacks to how Tami and Richard’s bond was formed, both deepening our connection to them and breaking up the lonely stretches at sea through crowd-pleasing fun and romance.

As the situation grows more desperate, pleasing flirts with pandering, and Kormakur weakens the emotional impact with some unnecessary spoon-feeding.

When the couple sails into the teeth of the hurricane, it bites hard, giving Kormakur (Everest, 2 Guns, Contraband) the chance to flash his action flair via a breathtaking storm sequence.

The film’s tale is truly compelling, and it does deliver satisfying stretches while staying cautious of any narrative risks that might seem disrespectful.

Even at its most dangerous, Adrift feels ironically safe.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

Me Before You

by Hope Madden

A textbook tear jerker/romance that somehow manages to miss both of those targets, Me Before You is a pretty, brightly lit, well-meaning effort that lacks courage.

Adapting her own best-selling novel, Jojo Moyes offers director Thea Sherrock’s feature debut a warm story lacking chemistry and hard edges. Lou (Emilia Clarke) – a working girl from a small British town – takes a job as companion to recent quadriplegic Will Traynor (Sam Claflin). Once a wealthy, live-life-on-the-edge playboy, Will now haunts a wing of his parents’ castle. For real. They live in the castle that looms in the background of Lou’s small town.

Not that unemployed waitress Lou is intimidated! Not with all that pluck and salt-of-the-earthiness! And it turns out, all it takes to melt Will Traynor’s cold, cold heart is a wildly mismatched yet huggably bold outfit and some dimples.

Once Lou realizes that Will intends to end his life in a Swiss “death with dignity” clinic in six months, she determines to make his last hours on earth amazing and, thereby, change his mind.

Good for Moyes and Sherrock for addressing a difficult issue. Too bad they treat the end of life question the same way they treat Will’s suffering, his medical needs, and every other messy element in the film – which is to say, they keep it offscreen.

Clarke is an effortless charmer, so it’s unfortunate she keeps her beguiling wackiness dialed up to 11. Attractive and easy to watch as they are, she and Claflin have next to no onscreen chemistry. That particular problem is symptomatic of a film that feels inauthentic – though likeable – throughout.

Blandly inoffensive and colorful are not the kind of adjectives you use to describe a tear jerking romance that stays with you. Me Before You warms an icy heart before succumbing to terminal adorableness.