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Home > True Spirit (2023): A Review

True Spirit (2023): A Review

True Spirit 2023

A Voyage For a New Viewing Audience

Based on the 2010 memoir, True Spirit follows the true story of Jessica Watson, who attempted to sail around the globe at 16. This movie will please young audiences everywhere, combining the isolation and competitiveness of aquatic sports with the need to defy sexist expectations of young women in male-dominated sports True Spirit is like a cross between Soul Surfer and Battle of the Sexes. Directed by Sarah Spillane, unfortunately, it is anything but smooth sailing for those old enough to have their own subscription. 

Anchors Down

True Spirit benefits from using real-world events as its plot. That helped to keep the goal clear, the obstacles apparent, and the stress human. However, in terms of quality, it stayed in the realm of made for t.v. movies and felt more like a knock-off of Soul Surfer than anything else. Granted, it had some beautiful scenes, such as sailing through the stars (it was only a reflection on the ocean, but the impression was gorgeous) or the initial cargo ship collision, but they were wasted. Instead of a linear timeline that steadily built momentum, the filmmakers acted as masseuses massaging away tension by cutting back to the backstory just as it was getting good. Again, if this was for television and commercial breaks were necessary, perfect editing, but because there weren’t, it has no real holding power for those unable to identify with the heroine. A protagonist-driven story is always a gamble as, quite literally, all the eggs are in one basket, and this time they got a bit scrambled. 

It would have been fantastic if they had committed to a tone and had only told the film chronologically. However, it oddly straddled the line between teen coming of age and elementary school fodder. It seems the only targeted audience is families with both. Even still, it is definitely a movie the kiddos will grow up to realize wasn’t as good as they thought.

True Spirit 2023

Acting Ahoy-rrible? 

The acting was stiffer than a surfboard and almost comically bad. The news reporter, played by Todd Lasance, was such a caricature of a human being that it begs the question: how did these people make it through auditions? At which point the realization set in, they did what they could. The filmmakers forced the cast to fit these stiff, unnatural, and deeply sanitized roles no one could possibly humanize despite being based on a true story. It would have been the best Disney Channel Original Movie released in a long time: however, it feels odd to release content stylized in such a manner to a mainstream audience. Perhaps slash the budget and give it to Lifetime.

The film as a whole needed more grit to fit a narrative entrenched in passion, determination, and inherent obstacles. Film lead Teagan Croft held her own for the subject matter, but for a film about cutting through the ocean, it, along with all of its performances, remained relatively surface level. From choppy editing to touch-and-go pacing, the filmmakers diluted their source material to the most tedious and undecided version of what it could have been. With that, the performers had little solid foundation to ground their performances and can’t be entirely blamed for the contrived finished product. Between the bright filters, awkwardly handled scene transitions, and overtly nice demeanor of the cast, this would be a perfect addition to a Hallmark Channel enthusiast’s watch list, as it is filled with line deliveries only a mom could love. 

Returning to Shore

True Spirit sets an inspiring example of bravery and hard work and could go on to become a touchstone film for the next generation. As a result, however, it’ll take about a decade to determine if it has sea legs as a cult classic. In the present day, it sinks before it has a chance to sail, landing a bit pedantic. It’ll be interesting to see if the movie impacts the sport’s popularity, but that may be more doubtful than the movie gaining popularity in the first place.

Stream True Spirit now on Netflix.

True Spirit 2023

True Spirit (2023) Official Netflix Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Mark DeCastro is a current MFA student at LIU studying Writing and Producing for TV. He has previously completed his BA in Psychology at Johns Hopkins University with minors in Creative Writing, Film, and Theatre Studies. He hopes to pursue a career in writing for stages, screens, and shelves.