Not so much drifting as veering between storylines, Ben Nott and Morgan O’Neill’s Drift often feels like a film with narrative ADD. With likable leads (Xavier Samuel and Myles Pollard as brothers Jimmy and Andy Kelly, plus Sam Worthington supporting as a surf-hippie) and gorgeous scenery, it wouldn’t have been difficult to make a charmer about a group of guys building a surfboard manufacturing business. Unfortunately, that’s the film Drift might have been, not the film it is. The Kelly brothers are surf enthusiasts in 1970s Australia, when the sport hadn’t yet caught on. Jimmy could go pro, while Andy is the thinker who wants to build a business. But the narrative keeps fracturing: Is Drift a sports film about winning the big competition? A gangster movie about smuggling drugs via surfboards? A love-triangle drama featuring the brothers and a Hawaiian girl (Lesley-Ann Brandt)? Or a startup story? The crookedness of the narrative is compounded by the film’s failure to display its characters’ great pleasures (surfing and drugs) in visually expressive ways. Most surfing scenes are shot with a simplistic, B-roll approach, and the drug trips fail to travel beyond the borders of the formulaic. Subjective visual experimentation isn’t typically necessary in a Hollywood film, which is what Drift aspires to be, but these filmmakers have not absorbed Hollywood’s most important lesson: Pick your genre and stick to it.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 31, 2013