Sarah Spillane's True Spirit is based on the real-life story of Jessica Watson, an Australian sailor who, at the age of 16, became the youngest person to sail around the world nonstop and unassisted. She was awarded the Order of Australia Medal, and her story is genuinely inspirational. In the film, actor Teagan Croft steps into the shoes - and boat - of Watson as Spillane, along with writers Rebecca Banner and Cathy Randall, recreates the perilous task undertaken by the Australian sailor.
What the filmmakers do is give this movie a Disney treatment. For the majority of the film, everything is bright and bubbly, complete with songs that do their best to uplift your (and the characters') spirits. The hurdles are reduced to footnotes and used to display serviceable special effects. The government tries to stop Jessica from sailing by passing a bill, it's mentioned how the family does not possess enough finances to do some repairs on Pink (the boat), and Jessica's father, Roger (Josh Lawson), makes a remark in front of the camera that threatens to break Jessica's enthusiasm.
But True Spirit pays lip service to the mentioned issues and brushes them off as soon as they are mentioned. It aims to not fill your hearts with gloom. Rather, the movie bears the flag of passion and wants to instill the same within its audience. The message here is that of encouragement: Follow your dreams, don't give up on your desire, etc. In that sense, True Spirits is like those motivational videos that scream at you to not give up and things like that. The effect remains as long as you watch the content. After that, you return to the real world, move on with your daily life, and at a party, probably preach the same message to guests to appear bold and confident.
It's all a shallow affair, which is why the movie relies on cheese to hook the audience. The people who fix Pink greet Jessica with smiles. Hannah (Molly Belle Wright) loans her favorite toy to Jessica. When the boat is stuck due to no waves and winds, we get a corny emotional speech, after which both the waves and the winds make their appearance. This "magic" is literally treated as magic through a starry sky and a line like, "Pink, you found the wind." I wouldn't have been surprised if a fish had emerged from the water and winked at Jessica during the musical sequences. In other words, the movie wants to be cutesy, so it becomes impossible for us to hate it. A journalist character (Todd Lasance) represents all those people on this side of the screen who will regard the movie cynically. But he gradually softens and starts rooting for the young sailor. That's True Spirit's way of claiming it will melt even the toughest of souls watching it.
True Spirit opens with an expository voice which quickly establishes Jessica's fondness for sea and sailing. The subsequent flashbacks feel unnecessary and just appear to be eating up the runtime. In one of them, a young Jessica (Alyla Browne) tells Ben (Cliff Curtis) how everybody considers her to be no more than just a small girl, which is why she is not allowed solo sailing. She further adds that girls have to prove themselves constantly. (a) The "girls needing to prove themselves" line seems to be inserted to deliver a message, and (b) we grasp some of the points very early before this scene. Yes, the flashback informs us how Jessica met Ben, but the meeting itself is not terribly interesting.
From the texts (Day 1, Sydney Harbor, and so on) to the sight of pizzas being passed towards the Watson family, almost everything in True Spirit is designed to make you smile. This is why you see Jessica's loneliness when she hears her siblings on the phone laughing, but you don't feel anything. The storm sequences are mildly effective, and the saccharine tone eventually works its magic. I found myself grinning when Jessica was welcomed by a large gathering. Notice the color of the carpet she initially steps on and greets her family: It's pink. I guess I fully submitted myself to this film during the scene where Jessica's boat emerged like a warrior, and I saw the subtitles saying, "Boat groans." Now that's a perfect, silly, sweet scene that knows how to melt our hearts and make us smile.
Get all latest content delivered to your email a few times a month.
Bringing Pop Culture News from Every Realm, Get All the Latest Movie, TV News, Reviews & Trailers
Got Any questions? Drop an email to [email protected]