Monday, January 30, 2023

True Spirit: Movie Review

An even-keeled film about achieving your dreams.
True Spirit is the true story of Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft) a 16-year-old girl who sailed solo non-stop around the world. The story has a nice flow and nice pace to it. Throwing us right into the middle of a storm, in what turns out to be a test run, is a fast introduction to a our lead character. A very determined girl, but also a little stubborn, who may be in over her head.   2023

Directed by: Sarah Spillane

Screenplay by: Rebecca Banner, Cathy Randall, Sarah Spillane

Starring: Teagan Croft, Anna Paquin

The next stop is a press conference after her test run, where reporters and child welfare advocates pepper her with questions about her preparedness and if a sixteen-year-old is even old enough to understand the risks that she’s accepting by attempting to be the youngest to complete an unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation. They are definitely right on the second point. Sixteen is not old enough to make those decisions. That’s where her parents come in.

By casting Anna Paquin and Josh Lawson as her mother and father, two great actors who have spent decades in every genre and can now play supporting and loving parents in their sleep, the film does attempt to change the narrative. Josh Lawson is the worried father who tries to talk her out of it, but then they go over safety precautions. Anna Paquin is the ultra-supportive mother who clearly loves her daughter and knows her very well. In reality, these are parents to four kids all of whom are home-schooled who spent one year living in an RV in the Australian wilderness and also spent nine years living on a boat (no clue if they have jobs). Their sanity and capability should absolutely be questioned, but the film glosses over that and focuses on Jessica’s tenacity.

Teagan Croft is in her first lead role in a feature film. She has the perfect look for the film (and not too unlike the real Jessica) and leans into the right emotions for each part of Jessica’s journey. There are flashbacks to a 10-year-old Jessica who first gets the idea that she’s going to sail around the world, and she does her homework. She has notebooks filled with everything she’s going to need to accomplish first from getting a boat to passing multiple safety courses. It becomes very easy to root for this girl.

Most of the movie is even-keeled. Jessica’s first storm dials down the big dramatic moments and her bouts of homesickness and loneliness are treated with a bit of an upbeat manner to keep from sinking into any lows. Jessica’s last big storm occurs near her final stop back in Sydney and they play it up as an unbelievable moment. I wish they played it more realistic, but Jessica herself probably doesn’t really know what happened.

I tend to love ocean-based cinematography and this is no exception. I love all the shots of Jessica alone with her boat in the middle of the ocean whether it was with a sunset or the dolphins jumping in the water or just watching the sky before a storm. They leaned into the CGI for her scenery with unrealistic skies and oceans occasionally but it does give the film a different look and feel which can be necessary when your lead character is alone on a boat for 210 days.

For those who love water-based movies or true stories about individual achievements, True Spirit is a winner. It never goes too big or too low, but it is a lovely film about achieving your dreams.

Available on Netflix worldwide (February 3, 2023)