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True Spirit (2023) Review

This is my review for the 2023 Netflix movie “True Spirit”. This is a dramatization of the true story of young sailor Jessica Watson. It’s a feel-good, family drama for Netflix that falls into a lot of the classic tropes (despite being a biopic) – but is, ultimately, a very enjoyable watch.

What is True Spirit about?

True Spirit follows the story of Jessica Watson, a sixteen-year-old Australian girl who dreams of sailing around the world. Before she can set sail, however, she must face up to a hostile media and some doubting family members. Though, when she does finally hit the ocean, it’s hardly smooth sailing. She must combat storms and fight the mental toll of loneliness that the open water brings with it.

Alongside her story, we see how she is impacting the lives of her family, friends and complete strangers around the world. It’s a bit soppy in places, but if you’re wanting subtlety – you wouldn’t be watching a Netflix original. Despite the cheesiness and, at times glaringly, low budget, it is a movie that will tug at your heart strings. There are some parts in this movie that will have you flip-flopping between happy tears and sad tears. If you don’t know how the story of Jessica Watson ultimately ends, I suggest you keep it that way – it really does keep you on your toes knowing that this story could have any ending.

Is True Spirit good?

It’s not going to feature in any awards shows, anytime soon – but in terms of family-friendly dramas: this is one of Netflix’s best. As mentioned, it’s corny and at times, the dialogue feels very silly, but there’s a lot of heart in here. You will find yourself getting attached to the characters and wanting them to succeed. You feel the highs of reaching your dreams and you feel that sinking feeling when…. well.

It does feel a bit cheap in places and the first act is particularly egregious, with the media antagonists feeling cartoonish. That’s especially so when you realise how long this movie feels and how much it would benefit from leaving 10-15 minutes on the cutting room floor. That said, you’ll quickly forget all of that when you get sucked into a stronger second act and a really strong final third.

The message of the film is the classic “everyone can achieve anything they set their mind to”. This is nice and a good message for kids, though it does fall somewhat short when the scene where we see Jess first chase her dreams involves approaching a former sailing “champion” and convincing him to coach her. Good luck with that, kids.

Is True Spirit based on a true story?

True Spirit is based on the real life story of Jessica Watson. The movie incorporates a lot of real elements from her story – such as the aggressive media and the treacherous conditions she faced at sea. Some of this is exaggerated for the sake of the movie.

One of the most interesting omissions from the movie is the sailing community’s debate over her record. Due to her age, the World Speed Sailing Record Council refused to acknowledge her accomplishment. There were also some debate about whether she had sailed far enough to claim that she had met the criteria for sailing around the world. This was quite a depressing discovery after watching the film, so it makes sense to omit it. It does dampen the “you can do anything” message, when it’s dependent on a group of losers in suits agreeing that you fit their specific terms and conditions.

Will there be a sequel?

As it is a biopic, the feasibility of a sequel is limited by the events of Watson’s later life. Jessica Watson did go on to do great things with her sailing, including lots of racing. However, it’s unlikely that there will be a sequel to this movie. Her adventure around the world is, ultimately, what she is known for. No sequel would live up to this tale.

However, it is possible that we could get a movie about another young adventurer. Though, given that “True Spirit” is the name of Watson’s book, it would be strange to continue the brand without her. Therefore, it seems safe to say that this won’t become a franchise.

Who should watch this movie?

This is a very accessible movie that most would enjoy. If you’re willing to excuse a little bit of cheese in exchange for some adventure, then give this a go! It’s one of Netflix’s stronger entries in terms of recent original content.

It is very family-friendly, though some of the later scenes may be disturbing for young children.

This was my review for the movie “True Spirit”. Did you enjoy this movie? Let me know in the comments below.

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