Wild Eyes: The Abby Sunderland Story (2011) Poster

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Inspiring? Not so much.
matso9828 July 2014
Warning: Spoilers
After seeing the documentary Maidentrip about Laura Dekker's solo sailing trip around the world, Wild Eyes came across as completely lackluster...and questioning the motivations behind it. Was the message one of inspiration or faith as it's been billed? Was it meant to be a profile of a resilient and capable young trailblazer? Or was it something else? If it was meant to be inspirational it fell far from the mark. The focus was so far from the actual trip that it was almost an afterthought. In the Laura Dekker documentary the almost the entirety was Laura's video diary and her experiences on deck. In the case of Wild Eyes, you can tell it was a trip that was going to be exploited as a documentary from the very start. It was obvious that the father had hired a professional film crew from the very start and then brought them to Cabo, Cape Town and even Paris for production value. There were even moments that were supposed to be touching, but seemed very staged. One was when the father insisted that he told Abby that she should stop the trip after her second stop after breakdowns. Another being the entire footage of the family's reaction to Abby's emergency beacon going off and subsequent rescue. It left me hoping that those moments were recreated and not delayed waiting after the film crew was called at 3:00 in the morning.

The faith aspect is also seriously lacking...and I don't think it was an aspect that Abby was pushing for. Rather, it seemed to be solely a message from the father. The father leads a prayer before Abby leaves L.A. for safety and success, only to have the boat break down in Cabo. The father leads a prayer before Abby leaves Cabo for safety and success, only to have the boat break down on the way across the Atlantic forcing her to stop in Cape Town. The father leads a prayer before Abby leaves Cape Town, again, for safety and success, only to have the boat rolled and left damaged in the Indian Ocean by a rogue wave. Then he lauds the power of prayer after she is found alive and unharmed less than 24 hours later. If the message was the power of prayer, the first three attempts at asking God for help and protection seem to have been disregarded both by God and the storyline.

While Abby did have courage in her attempt, she does not come across as resilient and capable. The beginning of the documentary focuses on how her father was preparing her for every contingency. That she knew everything she could about all of the systems on the boat. Yet, most of the storyline of the actual trip consists of her calling home for help. Her phoning her father for help starting the engine right before the boat is rolled sounds exactly like a helpless teenager calling home because their car won't start.

Even the way Abby comes across in the small amount of self-filmed, on board footage leaves her seem like there's no joy or even positivity at all in the journey. In contrast, Laura Dekker in Maidentrip is overwhelmingly happy and positive about her trip, even when things weren't always going her way. Overall, Laura comes across as either a spoiled girl who isn't getting her way or as someone who is doing something because she feels obligated.

The most unlikeable character in this entire story, however, is Abby's father. He seems to be overbearing and annoying. The sense that the world needs to revolve around him and his family can easily be seen when he insists that the search for Abby was "the biggest story in the world" and pushed out all other headlines at the time. On June 10th, 2010 the BP Oil Spill story was reaching a peak and it was revealed that some guy named Julian Assange was in possession of hundreds of thousands of classified US Government documents. I think his assertion was very over-blown.

Frankly, this documentary feels from start to finish like an attempt to recoup the costs of the attempt and nothing more even to the point of having a small infomercial on the ease and merits of one of Abby's sponsor's brand of dehydrated meals. Abby is fairly unlikable, her father is even more so. The messages of faith and inspiration were drowned out in a repetitive list of what was fixed on the boat multiple times.

Skip this flick and watch Maidentrip instead.
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An ambitious, depressing quest for celebrity
jbull846 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This documentary tells the story of Laurence Sunderland, an ambitious and devoutly Christian yachting enthusiast, who exploits his 16-year old daughter's dream to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world. With a drawn-out focus on the lead-up to the voyage launch, extravagant sponsorships are acquired in order to purchase an expensive yacht. Throughout the film, the uninspiring Sunderland is profiled ad nauseum. The courage and determination of the teenager (Abby Sunderland) is apparent, but it is completely overshadowed by her publicity-driven, narcissistic father. The voyage comes to a premature end after Abby capsizes in the South Indian Ocean.
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