All is Lost – Reviewed by David Edwardsrobert redford portrait

All is Lost is the most recent production featuring Robert Redford and received many glowing reviews when premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. This story is a most unusual production from many perspectives.

The story involves an unnamed yachtsman (played by Robert Redford) sailing single-handed across the Indian Ocean where the yacht collides with a partly submerged container that causes serious damage to the vessel.

The film is a cautionary tale to any would-be sailor and from that perspective it is rewarding. However there is much to be frustrated about with this production. As a lone yachtsman the only dialogue is contained in the few words the yachtsman utters before his radio ceases to function. Communication for the remainder of the film is depicted through body language, despair and exhaustion of the yachtsman combined with the telltale noises of the sea, wind and the yacht itself as the escalating series of challenges develop.All isLost

Unfortunately the story telling method of this film is not enough to reveal the full potential of the unfolding drama. For a viewer unfamiliar with sailing, the story as told is one-dimensional; a series of mishaps, challenges leading to an inevitable end.  The imagery is powerful, graphically highlighting the physical and practical challenges faced but it is hollow without the other storytelling elements. How much better this film could have been had the producers used another device to reveal the inner thoughts of the lone yachtsman; his fears, frustrations, the loneliness, his lack of knowledge and preparation, his reflections on loved ones back home and of course his hopes for rescue and the ever present fear of death.message in a bottle

Throughout the journey we see the yachtsman keeping a daily diary or log, noting every event we are seeing on screen and no doubt recording aspects of a deeper significance that we may not have seen.  Despite this we never witness details of the log nor hear a word said to reflect the contents. Potentially, this story is one of the great survival epics but because vital components of the story are lacking, this reviewer was left frustrated and deeply dissatisfied.

However not all is lost for the viewer who does have an understanding or a desire for blue water sailing.  The lone yachtsman of the film is obviously a dreamer as opposed to a realist. His yacht the Virginia Jean is state-of-the-art but his preparation to command the vessel is sadly lacking.  When the power fails, he can no longer communicate and for the brief moment when he does make contact, he uses the incorrect format for a yacht in distress.  Without power he can no longer use the many electronic navigation aids and he has no understanding of traditional chart  navigation.  He removes a sextant from a box, sealed as it was when purchased and so has no experience of how to use the instrument although he later does manage to teach himself.  During a storm he leaves the changing of a headsail so late that he almost drowns.  And the list goes on.  So the unfortunate yachtsman provides many examples on what not to do and from this aspect alone the film is worth viewing.  I am waiting now for the remake when we, the audience, gain access to the inner thoughts of the lone yachtsman on what should be a truly remarkable story of determination and survival.

All is Lost is now available on DVD. Duration105 minutes.