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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Maidentrip review: all is found

Maidentrip green light Laura Dekker

MaryAnn’s quick take…
A remarkable documentary about a remarkable kid, and an incredibly optimistic look one young person making her dreams come true.
I’m “biast” (pro): hooray! a film about a teenage girl having an adventure… and it actually happened
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Laura Dekker dreamed about sailing around the world solo. And between mid 2010 and early 2012, she did just that, and broke records as the youngest person ever to achieve such a feat. She was just 14 when she started, 16 when she finished. And she did it without a support team following her. On the longest leg of her voyage, she spent 47 days at sea nonstop, with not a single other human being for company. (There were always dolphins and seagulls, though.)

It took a court battle in her home country of Holland for her and her parents to retain the right to make the decision to take on such a potentially dangerous quest, but first-time documentarian Jillian Schlesinger does not linger on that aspect of the story, or indeed even on exploring Dekker’s parents’ thinking in giving her the okay to go ahead. It’s a tough thing to consider, even for me as a nonparent: it’s scary enough that a young teenager is alone at sea — though Dekker has been a remarkably experienced sailor practically from birth — but worse to think about her having to cope with other people at all the stops she made along the way to explore the world. I mean, it’s one thing to let your kid fend for herself on a day trip to the big city, but for two years in strange countries on the other side of the globe? Eek. And stop she did, everywhere she could, and the list of places she visited is a litany of adventure: The Canary Islands. The Galapagos. South Africa. Australia. (At 15 years old! I’m so jealous.)

This festival-favorite film is a remarkable story about a remarkable kid, and it’s an incredibly optimistic look at a world — the real world! this really happened! — in which one young person made her dreams come true through sheer force of personality and a lot of hard work… and the world let it happen, didn’t thwart her at all. Dekker shot all the at-sea stuff herself, as a sort of video diary, and she does come across as incredibly mature (barring one amusing incident with a Dutch journalist who’s come to Australia to interview her mid journey, when she’s all pouting teenager). Yet she’s young enough, too, that we can witness her settle into herself over the course of her trip, and become the young woman she has been forging herself to be. This is a lovely portrait of adolescence unlike any we’ve seen before, and a thrilling real-life escapade many of us grownups can only fantasize about for ourselves.

‘Maidentrip’ is available to stream in the US on OVID.

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Maidentrip (2014) | directed by Jillian Schlesinger
US/Can release: Jan 17 2014
UK/Ire release: direct to DVD

MPAA: not rated
BBFC: not rated

viewed on my iPad

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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