‘True Spirit’ Review: Around the World in 210 Days

Nothing rocks the boat for long in this can-do drama based on the true story of Jessica Watson, an Australian teenager who sailed the globe.

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By Nicolas Rapold

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The soft-rock bard Christopher Cross once sang, “Sailing takes me away.” For one gutsy Aussie, Jessica Watson, “away” meant circling the globe at age 16. “True Spirit” streamlines and sanitizes her impressive real-life feat, which began in October 2009, into pure inspo fuel, recounting Watson’s maritime journey without ever turning grim for long.

A sunny Teagan Croft (“Titans”) plays Watson, backed by Cliff Curtis as the coach and Anna Paquin as the iron-willed mom in a loving family, alongside a softie dad (Josh Lawson) and three cute siblings. Watson’s trial run ends in a collision, triggering a media frenzy, but she sets out eastward as planned on a pink sailboat covered in decals.

The cleanly shot movie cruises through storm-tossed seas and dead air alike, buoyed by a soundtrack of teen anthems, as well as flashbacks to Watson as a tween. Her solitude isn’t absolute, thanks to phone and internet access (she vlogs), and she celebrates Christmas virtually with the family, who packed gifts for her. (On the actual journey, her parents also did flyovers in a small plane.)

It all goes by fast — is that the Indian Ocean already? — and nothing rocks the boat for long, though a final-boss storm plays as a cliffhanger (albeit a brisk one). The message of manifesting your goals reigns supreme, which is great, but it’s worth mentioning that Watson’s willpower benefits from the privileges of financial security, family support and a curmudgeonly-turned-selfless coach. Without all that backing, seven months alone on a sailboat might be a non-starter (though many of us, myself included, would be in no rush).

True Spirit
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

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