True Spirit Review – an inspirational true story brought to life

February 4, 2023 (Last updated: 3 weeks ago)
Nicole Ackman 0
Film Reviews, Netflix, Streaming Service


While True Spirit might not be a masterpiece of film-making, it is an inspirational depiction of the massive accomplishment of young sailor Jessica Watson.

We review the Netflix film True Spirit, which does not contain spoilers.

There’s a specific film genre that consists of true stories of young, determined girls accomplishing impressive feats despite everyone warning them that it’s not possible. True Spirit is the latest offering of this type, and it’s certainly a strong entry in the genre. Jessica Watson is the perfect candidate for being portrayed onscreen; as the youngest person to ever sail solo, non-stop around the world, her achievement was basically begging to be made into a film.

True Spirit Review and Plot Summary

Sarah Spillane directs and co-writes the Australian biopic based on Jessica Watson’s book, True Spirit: The Aussie Girl Who Took On the World. The film opens as Jess (Teagan Croft) reflects on her relationship with the ocean and her love for sailing. Then, we see Jess on her boat, Pink, where she looks as at home as most teen girls are in their bedrooms. She’s on her test voyage for her upcoming plans, but disaster strikes suddenly when a cargo ship runs into her small sailboat. She’s rocked (literally) by the disaster, and Pink needs substantial repairs, but she sticks to her guns that she needs to set out on her sail around the world in just a few weeks.

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Her parents and three siblings are supportive, as well as her sailing coach Ben (Cliff Curtis), but the rest of the world seems to be waiting to see her fail. Some simply state that the 16-year-old girl is incapable of sailing a ship by herself all the way around the world, but there are also child welfare groups that question whether her parents should be allowing her to do the challenge. But despite the worries of Roger (Josh Lawson) and Julie (Anna Paquin), they support her desire to be the youngest person to complete the journey.

As Jess prepares, the audience is shown flashbacks to her as a young girl deciding that she wants to do the voyage and learning to sail. This helps contextualize her love of sailing in the present without needing as much exposition. The film explores how the press circled her, her family, and her coach like vultures, with one reporter in particular – Craig Atherton (Todd Lasance) – eager to press them on the risks of the journey. Despite the odds, Jess finishes her preparations and bids a tearful goodbye to her family and Ben and sets off.

The rest of the film is taken up by Jess’s time on the water while also cutting back to her family anxiously awaiting her phone calls with her progress. Jess films video logs while on the boat, which are a clever way to give her a good reason to talk to the camera and share her thoughts and feelings. Croft’s performance as Jess is all the more impressive because of the large number of scenes that she is in by herself, on the boat. Curtis and Paquin also give solid performances as Jess’s coach and mother, respectively, who take different approaches in their worries about her safety.

Is True Spirit good?

True Spirit, though based on a compelling story, doesn’t fully live up to its potential. The CGI is shoddy in places and the overall tone and film-making are somewhat Disney Channel-esque. It definitely seems meant to appeal to younger audiences, despite the somewhat intimidating storm sequences. However, for family audiences, it’s an engaging and inspirational film. Not only does it show Jess Watson prevailing above all those who doubted her to achieve her goals, but it also touches on her additional challenge of being dyslexic. It’s the sort of film that encourages young women, in particular, to go after their dreams – and those are always worth seeing.

What did you think of the Netflix film True Spirit? Comment below.

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