By Laurie Coker
Fortunately or unfortunately, I watched Robert Redford’s new film All is Lost, about a lone sailor lost at sea, with two accomplished sailing women – my older sister and her friend. Because of their expertise and my own experiences aboard my sister’s boats, I looked on Redford’s character’s adventure with more than a film critic’s eye. Although visually stunning writer/director J.C. Chandor’s film lost me in continuity errors and his character’s inexplicable reason for being out at sea alone in the first place.
I know others, like my critic friend in NYC, are raving about All is Lost, but I can’t wholly agree. While Candor certainly offers some remarkable imagery and impressive storm sequences, seaman errors made by Redford’s character and limited character background information distracted me immeasurably. Regardless of the intense imagery and its striking setting, I wandered adrift between bored and dumbfounded.
Redford, who puts great effort into his part, including doing some of his own stunts, isn’t to blame for the film’s faults. Tied to its own constraints, Chandor’s telling longs to say more, but fails to hold our attention – missing key information and more importantly (to me at least) making countless mistakes in sailing realism. I needed to understand why this man drifted alone in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and why he feels inclined (in voiceover) to ask his family for forgiveness. In fairness, I know something about sailing in open water and my guests are experts in all aspects of a mariner’s life, but even a “landlubber” would realize the importance of closing a companionway door, would not tie a raft to a sinking vessel, or would understand why it’s a bad idea to start a fire in a rubber life raft.
Realizing I am being nitpicky, I do give credit where it is due. Chandor created a gorgeous film. And according to my guests, he does relate many realistic, if fault ridden, situations for his character. Redford – who my sister told me would have spoken out loud to himself more often than not – must rely on wholly on facial expressions and actions to project every possible emotion. Yes, All is Lost, which earns a C+/B- from me, will receive due accolades, but I can’t climb or board with those who rave.