Adrift (A Deriva) is a stylish Brazilian film by writer and director Heitor Dahlia’s, starring French actor Vincent Cassel, Debora Bloch, Camille Belle and introducing Laura Neiva. Engulfed by endless ocean, luxurious sands and gorgeous bikini-clad teenagers we enter the laissez-faire world of bohemian middle classed families and their beach houses – all beautiful shadowy interiors and Georges de La Tour-style lighting- romantic summer nights and idyllic beaches of Buzios. Splendid. However, behind this beautiful exterior lye dark secrets and families at breaking point all seen through the wondering gaze of the impossibly beautiful 14-year-old Filipa (Neiva) as well as her own sexual awakening and coming of age. The film is simply beautiful with relatable characters aided by excellent performances.
Mathias (Cassel) a famous writer has took his wife and three children to his beach house to spend the summer, to cure his writer’s block and to reconcile his withering relationship with alcoholic wife Clarice (Bloch), a family breakdown that never explodes but slowly burns. We discover that Mathias is having an affair with a highly chic American woman, Angela (Belle) whose staying in a lavish hill top house nearby. We first see Angela speeding by on a passing boat in the opening scene, accompanied by a come hither glance, something Filipa can’t help but pick up on as she and her father splash around in the gentle Brazilian seas. Later Filipa discovers Angela’s photo in her father’s desk drawer and becomes obsessed with following him and witnesses her father have sex with Angela.
During this time, Filipa is also exploring her own sexuality, experiencing her first kiss and a semi-boyfriend. Filipa is convinced that Angela is the reason behind the breakdown of her parent’s relationship and plans to tell her mother. But she grows a certain detest towards both parents, her father because of the affair and her mother because of her alcoholism, blaming both for the breakdown. However, the dynamic appears to be a love hate relationship. Both parents dote upon their children and their love for them never comes under question, which is why Filipa is often torn. Her parents are selfish and caught up in their own resentments but that is only towards each other.
Filipa eventually confronts both Mathias and Clarice about the affair but their reactions are not as she hoped. We learn Clarice has been having an affair and is in love with a boy 10 years her junior and her father has had numerous affairs only out of spite for Clarice’s love for this other man. Filipa then discovers that her semi-boyfriend which she rejected has had sex with one of her friends, something that upsets her but hides well. In the end Mathias and Clarice stay together but the whole family are changed by the summer they spent by the seaside of Buzios.
I really enjoyed this film and I’m finding it hard to pinpoint why, taking only the plot into consideration. The story is one us, film goers have witnessed uncounted times; a young person dealing with the process and milestones thrown at them as part of growing up. There’s something quite Stand By Me-esque about it. But Adrift offers a new complexity through Filipa and I think it’s because she’s female. She experiences all the normal life milestones; first kiss, death, the realities of families, manipulation, sexual awakening, lies and jealousy, but we see it through beautiful people and scenery. And I think that’s why I find it so enchanting this film is a true treat for the eyes.
The colours in the film are vibrant and there’s a limited colour palette creating a summer theme of light blues, soft greens and shimmering tans. The cinematography wisely captures the sun and sensuality of the seaside, creating the feeling that we are looking at Polaroids of a past holiday. I truly love the close up shots of the actors faces as well, conveying raw emotion, that simply cannot escape the frame. I love how the film ends. Throughout the film Filipa’s younger sister has been photographing the family, which we finally see at the end of the film as gentle piano music plays. I really enjoyed this film and I would recommend it to people who appreciate family dramas with emotional characters and beautiful shots of the seaside.