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Drift (2024) - Movie Review

Movies & TV

By James W.

- Feb 18, 2024

A solitary footstep imprint on the sandy shore inches away from the waterline, progressively being swept away into oblivion, sets the tone for Anthony Chen's motion picture "Drift." This compelling but gradual overpowering by the waves serves as stark foreshadowing for the movie's narrative, which begins with an absorbing allure but slowly blurs into vagueness.

Cynthia Erivo plays Jacqueline, an emotionally unsettled and homeless Liberian woman lost in Greece, subsisting on petty earnings from beach foot massages to tourists and sheltering in desolate corners of the shoreline at night. Chen's film begins with sparse dialogue, relying mainly on silent observation of Jacqueline's daily struggle for existence and her timeless meandering. The film gradually discloses Jacqueline's past life as part of a wealthy Liberian family based in London through intermittent flashbacks. When quizzed about how she ended up in Greece, her curt response, "Same as anyone. Plane, ferry… luck" shuts down further inquiry. But that's not enough.

As we dive deeper into Jacqueline's backstory, we understand her forced exile from Liberia due to violence, bringing along only her haunting recollections. However, the movie fails to establish the context of this conflict, neglecting to make any reference to Liberia's civil war which concluded in 2003, nor does it anchor the film within a specific timeframe, leaving its specifics ambiguous.

Jacqueline's trauma and her African identity serve as the crux of the film, but with lack of detailed exploration, the narrative seemingly hints at the single-dimensional portrayal of African nations in the media as places devastated by poverty, violence, or both. Jacqueline's presence on the Greek beaches remains largely invisible to the affluent white tourists, while the locals constantly scrutinize her for misdemeanors.

Drift (2024) - Movie Review

In the narrative swirl, an African character, Ousmane, portrayed by Ibrahima Ba, pops up intermittently without a clear background or reason. His attempts at protecting Jacqueline, despite her avoidance, seem misplaced, with the film limiting his role to a symbolic representation of African connection. The true emotional bond surfaces with the entry of Callie, played by Alia Shawkat; an American tour guide who manages to break through Jacqueline's emotional fortification with her welcoming and humble personality.

This developing relationship and Jacqueline's irregular acceptance of the same forms the pivot of "Drift." Shawkat infuses some much-needed humor into the otherwise slow-paced narrative, contributing moments of relief. Erivo's performance is commendable, adapting to the film's minimalist dialogue, though her character's depiction as subdued and slightly helpless contradicts the glimpses of her joyous past life, depicted through transient flashbacks.

Chen's remote direction compliments the script penned by Susanne Farrell and Alexander Maksik, yet "Drift" seems to harbor a development issue. The audience grapples with fragmented plot hints, insufficient information, disappointing lack of understanding, and a dull visual style. The film exerts itself noticeably to evoke emotion, hence diminishing its authenticity. Moreover, the scarce narrative overly emphasizes instances of sordid violence, leaving an unpleasant hint of manipulation in a story that strives to center on post-traumatic human resilience over traumatic events.


7 / 10

"Drift" presents a raw, if somewhat hazy, journey of an African woman seeking solace and survival in Greece, navigating the nuances of trauma and cultural identity.