Netflix’s newest film sets sail with Jessica Watson

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Watson's boat, Ella's Pink Lady, has been retired to an exhibition in the Queensland Maritime Museum.

Maria Werner | Staff Writer

Feb. 16, 2023

Where there’s a will, there’s a way. For 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson, resilience and dedication were only a fraction of what she needed to accomplish her solo sailing voyage around the globe in October 2009.

On Jan. 26, Netflix released “True Spirit,” a powerful and emotional film based on the true story of Jessica Watson (Teagan Croft), who was the youngest person to successfully sail solo and unassisted non-stop around the globe.

The run time for this film was just under two hours, which felt drawn out at times, but didn’t take away too heavily from the film overall.

Jessica’s journey was littered with challenges as she fought against criticism from the Australian government and media. Because she was a minor, her parents also received backlash for supporting her dreams.

Jessica also faced numerous hardships while at sea, fighting harsh storms and unforgiving waters. Through the support of her family, her mentor and the sailing community, she was able to push forward and complete her journey.

One of the biggest strengths of this film was the cast. Croft played the role of Watson exceptionally well, focusing on her humility in the face of an incredible achievement.

To prepare for her role, Croft had the opportunity to meet with Watson before filming began and was able to accompany her on a brief sail. During their time together, Jessica described to Croft how she felt while sailing solo and the challenges that she faced.

“[I am] just an ordinary person, who had a dream, worked hard at it and proved that anything really is possible,” Watson said on her website,

There was a wide range of emotions that Croft had to master for this role. Due to the nature of Jessica’s journey, she was given the challenge of carrying most of the film as an isolated character.

When Jessica was faced with a treacherous storm, Croft had to display both fear and vulnerability in order to immerse the audience into the gravity of the dangerous and risky situation that she was experiencing.

The supporting cast, which included Cliff Curtis, Anna Paquin and Josh Lawson, was charming and endearing. These actors and actresses gave the film a strong foundation for audiences to engage with and immerse themselves in.

Julie Watson (Anna Paquin) flawlessly portrayed the anxiety and anticipation of a parent waiting for her child to safely return home.

There was a scene in which Jessica encountered a giant storm and the fear portrayed by her family was convincing and heart wrenching as they anxiously awaited her phone call to indicate she was safe. The audience could feel the love they have for their daughter through the screen.

Although the ending is clear from the beginning, audiences are kept on edge while watching the movie. The sailing sequences, consisting of both green screen and location footage, are breathtaking and poetic. Jessica’s love for the sea radiates through the visual aspects of the film and Croft’s performance.

The hardships she faced at sea reflected her own emotional journey. The sailing sequences were shot primarily at Gold Coast, Queensland and Sydney, New South Wales. The majority of the oceanic sequences, including the storms, were filmed in a studio at Oxenford, Queensland in giant water tanks.

Knowing that some of the ocean scenes were filmed off the coast of Australia makes the film feel even more authentic, while the clever use of visual effects and green screens did not distract or take away from the cinematography.

Overall, I found this movie to be emotional and heart wrenching. As a family-appropriate movie, there were instances when it felt like a movie directed towards younger audiences, which could be distracting to more mature viewers. Nonetheless, I found this film enthralling, and I’d rate it a seven out of 10. “True Spirit” is worth the watch.