Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) comes to below decks in this yacht on the Pacific Ocean and gathers her bearings. She works out that she has been in a hurricane, and the vessel is waterlogged but still seaworthy, but her boyfriend Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin) is missing and no matter how much she calls for him, he does not respond. She makes up her mind then and there to repair the boat as far as she can, then go out looking for Richard who she is convinced remains alive out there in the water, but finding him will be easier said than done as while the weather has calmed to an extent, the area is dangerous and she will need all her wits about her to survive...
The story of Tami Oldham, later Ashcraft, and her ordeal on the ocean was not one of the better-known accounts of endurance in extreme circumstances, though she had penned the inevitable book about her experiences, therefore it was a good bet that audience coming to the film version would not be aware of what had happened. This also meant they could be led up the garden path, or whatever the sea-based variation on a garden path would be, to reach the revelation at the end, which you don't imagine was the case when it was printed in her book; the tragedy had occurred in the nineties, so enough time had passed to allow the filmmakers some leeway.
In a way it was a pity that the twist had been felt necessary for inclusion, because it tended to make the actual story into a gimmick of sorts which it really wasn't, it was a tale of bravery against some pretty remarkable odds. You could see why Woodley (also here in the capacity of producer) wanted to bring it to the screen with herself as the lead, as it provided her with a strong female character to portray at a time when such roles were being deemed more important than ever before, and she certainly brought all of the physicality she could to it, to great effect. Her Tami was fresh-faced, keen to embrace challenges, and as capable as any strong woman in movies of the era.
What she was not, however, was particularly gripping when it came to her personality; she fills in a little of her background in chats with Richard as they both quickly warm to one another which details her being born to a fifteen-year-old mother, implying she has been more responsible and self-reliant as a result of her parent's immaturity, but aside from her danger-seeking side, there was not much to her. It would have been nice to say that her and Richard's romance was as groundbreaking as, say, Jack and Rose in Titanic, but for the most part it comes across as a holiday fling with two people who clicked, yet whether they would have stayed together had the trip all gone to plan and the hurricane never struck, who knows? Woodley and Claflin are at ease in each other's company, but no more than that.
The scenes where they strummed drippy ballads on the guitar didn't help the impression of two nice young folks who would go on to be defined by the dramatic circumstances they were plunged into at sea, rather than the rest of their lives where so much else happened. Mind you, it can be true that for many people there is one event in their existence that proves defining, and the rest was, if not marking time, then nowhere near as significant. Maybe not to them - Tami did go on to marry and have children, which you imagine was more important to her than those forty-one days adrift that she would be best known for, but to observers who heard about that news story they were involved with and would forever associate them with it. It didn't even have to be a news story. Back at the action, this joined such survival tales as Open Water or The Shallows in being compelling enough, and the true story hook was a help there, but more a piece of dramatization than a vital, searching yarn, and the reliance on the twist was perhaps a misstep. Other than that, it held the attention. Music by Volker Bertelmann.
[Sony's Blu-ray has a bunch of featurettes, deleted scenes and an audio commentary with the director and Woodley as extras. Pic and sound nice and clear.]