Sundance 2023: “Drift”

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Some people are excessively judgmental towards others. If they pass someone on the street that is not dressed like we do and has the appearance of a poor person, they send a gaze of disgust. Maybe it does not apply to you, and most certainly not to me, but it is a sad reality of how society looks at those who are less privileged without knowing their background story.

Jacqueline (Cynthia Erivo) never smiles and does not look happy. She carries a heavy burden of the past on her shoulder that does not allow her to move forward. She fled war-torn Liberia, leaving her wealthy lifestyle behind. Being a daughter of a government loyalist helped her enjoy life, but once the war came to her house, she had to leave. Now, she finds herself drifting on Greek Island, with no money to buy food or clothes, a place to stay, or even possess documents to secure a better future. She rejects everything and everyone because her solace is what breaks her heart – painful memories of the past. But when she meets a friendly American tour guide, Callie (Alia Shawkat), she gives herself a chance to, perhaps, smile one more time.

“Drift” is a beautifully crafted drama of an immigrant with a tormenting life. The woman gives foot massages to tourists to make some money. She has the opportunity to travel to London but does not do that. Almost like she exists within what breaks her on the inside and allows herself to be torn apart piece by piece. Callie is a free-spirited woman who realizes something is off with her new acquaintance but gives her the benefit of the doubt. Callie is not like many. She bonds with Jacqueline and offers her a helping hand. But for Jacqueline, it is not that easy. Because moving forward means leaving the past behind. And how can she do that, if the memories are so close to her heart and heart-wrenching, she thinks she should hold onto them for the rest of her life?

That being said, director Anthony Chen does an amazing job telling perhaps the most ordinary Immigrant story with the background of a character that will leave your heart pounding. It is not just empty words of praise I give to the film. It is a simple truth as to why we should always sympathize with those who flee their countries and, with a little patience, hear their story. Cynthia Erivo is magnificent, while Alia Shawkat shows through her performance truly humane compassion, kindness and empathy our society, unfortunately, lacks.

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