Warning: There are SPOILERS ahead for Adrift. So if you haven’t seen the survival drama yet then please don’t proceed.
Instead, bookmark this article, watch the film, and then click back for director Baltasar Kormákur’s revelations regarding the story and its production.
“Adrift” tells the heart-breaking true story of Tami Oldham’s miraculous trek across the Pacific Ocean after she became caught up in a hurricane and had to navigate to Hawaii with no communication or navigations tools.
The promotional materials for “Adrift,” as well as the film itself, would lead you to believe that Tami (Shailene Woodley) made this journey alongside her fiancée Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin).
However, the crushing revelation at the conclusion of the film is that Richard died during the hurricane itself, and Tami was motivated to get to Hawaii by her imagined version of him.
I recently had the chance to talk to “Adrift’s” director Baltasar Kormákur, who explained why this narrative device was used, and also broke down exactly how truthful the rest of the fllm was, too.
“There’s always license in filmmaking,” Kormákur insisted. “Because otherwise it gets like a docudrama and can feel very dry. The facts start to get in the way of the drama. I think there is a balance here.”
“With my past work, I would always go away from the subject to earn the freedom. Then I go back to the source to get the authenticity. I went to the source, which was the book and Tami. All I wanted to do was be more truthful to the story, and dig deeper and get the real story.”
There was specific part of “Adrift” that Kormákur and his screenwriters decided to alter, though, which was the location where Tami and Richard met.
“There’s a little freedom in how they got together, where they learnt who they are and how they fell in love. Because it didn’t happen in Tahiti, in reality it happened in San Diego. So that’s the most liberty we took.”
“Because we wanted to have it contained in one place. You don’t want to keep travelling between San Diego to Tahiti and back. That for me wasn’t an important license to take.”
Kormákur had full faith in the authenticity of Aaron and Jordan Kandell’s script for “Adrift,” though, as the duo had been in contact with Tami Oldham before writing it. Once he signed up to direct, Kormákur decided to connect with Oldham, too.
“I connected with her and Skyped with her, when I was in Iceland and she was in San Diego. Then when I went to Fiji and Los Angeles she came, too.”
“Adrift” had Oldham’s support throughout, which was especially important considering its depiction of her mental state while she was stranded.
“She was very supportive of the film. She loved the changes we were doing on the script. I asked her all about using her psyche as a device, and she was happy for that to happen.”
Thankfully Oldham was just as impressed by the finished film, as Kormákur confirmed that she and her family only had kind words to say about “Adrift” after watching it.
“It is kind of weird to say that other people love your film. But it couldn’t have been better. She really loved it, she was blown away by it. So did her daughter and all of her family.”