ADRIFT (À Deriva) is a reflection of the eponymous certain summer every young teenager experiences. By setting this story of discovery - of parental flaws and infidelities as well as the coming into flower sexually - in the 1980s, before cellphones and emotional isolation crept into our lives, and by placing it in the idyllic setting of the exotic Brazilian seaside, writer/director Heitor Dhalia avoids the gimmicks and interruptions upon which we all new rely and instead allows the story to unfold as a personal journey as seen form the eyes of a fourteen-year old youth. It is a quite miracle of a film.
Famous author Matthias (Vincent Cassel) has brought his family from São Paulo for a summer vacation: his beautiful, alcoholic, frustrated wife Clarice (Débora Bloch), his young son Antônio (Max Huzar), his middle daughter Fernanda (Izadora Armelin), and his fourteen-year-old daughter Filipa (Laura Neiva). The interaction with Matthias and his children is warm and sincere but there seems to be a stress between Matthias and Clarice. The children spend their days at the beach where Filipa begins to recognize the onset of her coming of age when young Artur (Daniel Passi) comes on to her. Filipa is anxious about the onset of femininity and wonders about the perceived friction between her parents. She discovers evidence of her father's affair with an American tourist Ângela (Camilla Belle) living at the beach and spies on the couple in their clandestine meetings. In response she pays more attention to Artur and to a handsome bartender (Cauã Reymond) whom she has discovered having an assignation with Ângela. When Matthias and Clarice finally confront their children about the real reason for the summer vacation from São Paulo and their intention to separate, Filipa realizes that her parents' marriage is a mutual sham and finds her own way of escaping the realities she has discovered: she is left adrift on the sea of Life and must find her own choices of how to face her femininity, her concepts of relationships, and fragility of fidelity.
In Heitor Dhalia sure hands this film is a tender pleasure to watch: making the focus of the story center on the relationship between Mathias and his daughter Filipa he allows us to understand the various aspects of the fragmenting family. None of this could happen were it not for the meticulously perfect performances by the entire cast - with special emphasis on Vincent Cassel and Laura Neiva and Débora Bloch. The cinematography by Ricardo Della Rosa sensitively uses the water supporting bodies as a visual metaphor, from above and from below the surface just as the film reveals the obvious and occult aspects of a failing marriage. The film is in Portuguese with English subtitles. Grady Harp