Friday Film Review | 'True Spirit'
“True Spirit” is an inspirational true story about 16-year-old Australian, Jessica Watson, becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe non-stop and unassisted. It’s currently streaming on Netflix.
You don’t have to be a sailing enthusiast to appreciate the Netflix film, “True Spirit.” It’s one of those feel good, terrifying at times, films that I watched with my ten-year-old daughter, and we were both entertained and inspired
“True Spirit” could also be called “True Grit” because it takes all that and more to do what this amazing young girl accomplished by being the youngest person (16) to circumnavigate the globe alone. I remember hearing about Watson’s journey in 2009 and marveling at the bravery, intelligence and will to accomplish this remarkable feat. What I didn’t know is Watson is dyslexic and reading anything, most notably maps, could be a challenge.
The film portrays this learning difference beautifully.
There was also a lot of controversy swirling around Watson’s parents for letting their teenager go on this adventure. It was long before cancel culture, but her parents had a taste of what it means to be publicly thrashed for endangering their child.
Watson is played by Australian actress, Teagan Croft from the television series, DC’s “Titan’s” and directed by Sarah Spillane who is also Australian. Spillane co-wrote the film with Cathy Randall and Rebecca Banner.
The film opens with Watson having a solo dance party in the cabin of a sailboat. She’s on a test run in Brisbane Bay, a prelude to her sail around the world. A freighter runs off course and hits Watson’s boat. She’s tossed around the cabin and almost doesn’t make it. Watson didn’t see the ship heading her way because she forgot to turn on her alert system before going to bed.
Not exactly winning over her critics at this point.
This doesn’t stop her, but she has some convincing to do. Her coach, Ben Bryant (Cliff Curtis) is one of those skeptics as well as her parents, but she convinces them that it was a fluke and will never happen again. Part of the film is watching her train for the sail and the media bet against her success.
Her mother, played by Anna Paquin, is her biggest supporter while her father played by Josh Lawson is initially against his daughter doing the unthinkable. By the time she sets sail, he musters up some encouragement.
During her journey, Watson is confronted by a storm that tosses her around like a tinker toy. She goes unconscious for a while and manages to continue, even when her dad begs her to stop. (She communicates often by satellite phone) She’s also hit by a no-wind event that leaves her stagnate for a week and in a deep depression that seems harder than any storm. She chronicles her journey in a video blog, which keeps her entertained at times, but the loneliness is real.
Some of the film is shot on location, other parts are green screen. In one scene the stars literally blanket the ocean.
Finally, the wind picks up and she’s 1,000 miles from Sydney, where she began and the ultimate finish line. She discovers a convergence of three huge storms that stand between her and the harbor. They seem unbeatable and everyone, even her coach and family, plead with her to get to port before the storms.
But doing that would mean she doesn’t complete the journey. Something that she can’t imagine.She goes for it. Obviously, she survives the 60-foot waves, but not without a few terrifying and gut-wrenching moments that I won’t give away here.
After 210 days at sea, Watson sails into Sydney harbor to a hero’s welcome. The epilogue reveals she was named Australian of the Year in 2010. She’s written two books and despite being dyslexic is still an avid sailor.
“True Spirit” is not rated, but family friendly, and has a running time of 1 hour and 49 minutes. It’s available on Netflix.