When it comes to Australian surf safaris on film it’s a bit of a desert. Sure, on the documentary side there are lots of great surfing flicks, but for a country surrounded in water we just can’t nail a really good surfing drama but Drift has a pretty good crack at it. Set in Western Australia in the 1970s, two brothers (Xavier Samuel and Myles Pollard) start up a surfing business specalising in making boards, wetsuits and clothing.
Working with the beautiful canvas of the coast of Western Australia, directors Ben Nott and Morgan O’Neill, with cinematography from Geoffrey Hall, manage to capture the majesty of the ocean with serene reflective sunsets, deep blue monster waves and the crisp whites of the perfect coastal break. Watching real surfers master the waves is a real thrill (a combination of the actors and stuntmen are used).
While it’s easy for Nott and O’Neill to find the best breaks, it’s not as simple when it comes to the plot. Samuel and Pollard are great playing the siblings and a lot of the film’s charm comes from their interactions, with a little spice added by a troubadour/photographer played by Sam Worthington, who is surprisingly good when given a role that allows for his native tongue. The biggest problem is that while the brothers are chasing the perfect work and surf balance, not much really happens, and instead the antagonists pile up in an attempt to kick-start a narrative. There are tough bikers, an evil bank manager and a drugged up employee. Throw in a last minute surfing competition to save everyone’s financial skin that feels ripped from the final act of a Mighty Ducks film and you’ve got a really lukewarm drama.
The 70s setting has a nice authenticity to it with the clothing, shaggy hair and music from the likes of Creedence Clearwater Revival, T-Rex and the Master Apprentices. Strangely though, a few modern music selections feel distinctly out of place and are not used expertly like the way the music of David Bowie and Queen is used in the medieval setting of A Knight’s Tale. There is a weird scene where a character pushes an 8 track cassette into a player and a song released in 2011 blasts from the speakers (The Jezabeles’ Endless Summer). This reviewer doesn’t remember anything in the film about time travelling surfboards?
Drift is a film that is superb on the water but a little wobbly on dry land.
[rating=2] and a half
Cameron Williams - follow Cam on Twitter here: @popcornjunkies