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When Laura Dekker was 13, she decided that she wanted to sail around the world alone. Her parents were ready to let her do it. Government agencies tried to prevent her, but she prevailed in court. It took 10 months to get through the legal battles, so when she was 14 she set out on her own from Holland. This documentary is mostly shots by Laura of herself on the boat during this trip, with her own commentary or voice in interview over the top. There is also footage of her taking time off when she is visiting ports, and we see her interacting with other people she meets, shopping for herself, and spending time with her family. She set off in August 2010 and finished her trip in January 2012, so she is 16 at the end of the documentary. We see her change a lot over that time. She spends a lot of time alone, and she goes through major accomplishments. She changes how she thinks about herself, and rejects her Dutch identity in favor of the country of her birth, New Zealand. She explains how she loves to sail and how normal life seems really boring to her. Of course, most people will wonder whether it was really a good idea to let her take on a project that puts her not just in physical danger but also psychological stress. Laura deals remarkably well with her situation: she is confident on her boat, and she maintains good spirits. Not many of us would do well being alone and vulnerable for extended periods of time, but she loves what she is doing. Laura talks about her relationships with her father, mother, and sister. Her parents separated when she was little, and she lived with her father. When she was 9, her father had a breakdown, and he stayed home a lot. That suggests Laura was used to a good deal of independence even when she was a small child.
The documentary makes for compelling viewing. The presence of the director is fairly minimal, and it has a bare-bones feel to it. The views of the ocean and the places Laura visits are often beautiful or when the weather is bad, alarming. Although we know that Laura survives, there is still some tension about how she will cope with storms. She is a charismatic narrator, even when she is been difficult in a typical teenager sort of way, moody and uncommunicative with an interviewer. She is impressive in her accomplishments. Some details are not explained at all, such as how she meets her educational requirements, but it is possible to find out some of that information online. Even for those who are not particularly interested in sailing, this is an interesting story of an adolescent who is able to take on great challenge and responsibility.
© 2014 Christian Perring
Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York
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