Sundance movie review: 'Drift' is a touching tale of friendship after tragedy

Cynthia Erivo stars in "Drift." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute
1 of 5 | Cynthia Erivo stars in "Drift." Photo courtesy of Sundance Institute

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Drift, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, is a touching story of a friendship that blossoms out of a tragic situation. Cynthia Erivo and Alia Shawkat give sincere performances as women from different backgrounds who connect.

Jacqueline (Erivo) has been living on a Greek island, homeless. The beginning of Drift shows how she makes beds out of sandbags, subsists on sugar packets and gives foot massages to tourists on the beach to afford more substantial food.


Flashbacks show Jacqueline living a much more lavish life in Liberia. She traveled with Helen (Honor Swinton Byrne), who is clearly no longer in the picture, and the flashbacks gradually explain how Jacqueline got to Greece.

In the present, Jacqueline encounters Callie (Shawkat) giving a tour of historical sites. Callie is happy to have some conversation when the tourists are off frolicking.

Callie helps Jacqueline with a feminine emergency, but when she offers to treat Jacqueline to dinner, Jacqueline politely declines. Still, they continue to cross paths.

A lovely friendship develops between Callie and Jacqueline predicated on kindness. Callie can do a little bit for Jacqueline, so she does.


This is a stark contrast from the restaurant manager who steps in when he notices Jacqueline about to steal leftovers off a vacated table.

Understandably, a restaurant can't allow their tables to become a free-for-all, but it demonstrates the difference between people who do a little and others who stand in the way. Jacqueline reciprocates as she can.

Suffice it to say, the flashbacks are building to something traumatic. It is handled sensitively and addresses traumas that many people from Africa, and other regions, have really endured.

Knowing Callie doesn't make it all better, and it's not supposed to. Hopefully, living with Jacqueline for 90 minutes can make viewers compassionate so if they meet someone in need, they might be a little more like Callie.

People in Jacqueline's situation don't get to go home when credits roll after 90 minutes. A little bit of kindness can make all the difference in their day.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.


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