In the documentary Maidentrip, director Jillian Schlesinger follows the journey of Laura Dekker, a Dutch fourteen-year-old girl who circles the world alone on her sailboat. The movie is low-stakes drama, equal parts All is Lost, The Endless Summer and Boyhood.
Though the task would make her the youngest person to ever complete the task, Laura isn’t really out to break records. She leisurely makes her adventure around the globe, spending well over 500 days on the trip so as to bask in all of the cultures and diversities the globe has to offer. After a brief introduction that tells us that Laura was literally born on her parents boat, as well as detailing the court controversy that sprung up over the possible child endangerment element of the trip, we’re on our way across the Atlantic.
The majority of the picture is handheld footage of Laura narrating her daily activities; the highs and the lows. She is shown adjusting the sails to catch wind when there’s barely any to be had, spilling ravioli after a wave comes on to quick and similar acts. There is also Laura growing over her journey, physically and emotionally. Though she never shows much hesitation in terms of her confidence on the ocean, Laura initially pines for company. She misses her dad and celebrates with her mom partway through. In one stretch of the movie, Laura meets some fellow sea-lovers that are close to her parents age, enjoying some time ashore with them and throwing a party with them thousands of yards away as each one’s vessel hits the equator.
Soon, Laura is more of a loner. In her narration, Laura mentions that she’s not one to have many close friends. By the time she’s cruising along the Pacific, we see Laura’s joy of the endless waves. She may not have anyone to share sunrises with; she also doesn’t have to bicker about what’s the best way to clean, fix the boat or what time to wake up. At a brisk 82 minutes, Schlesinger crams in a lot of this teenager’s mindset and the shifts and maneuvers with each passing day, week, month and year.
Schlesinger’s doc refrains from intimating that this is the best way to live. The director also walks past theatrics. There are some rougher waters and times, but Maidentrip isn’t about the shipping specifics, it’s about Laura’s; the things that make her unique and those that make her universal. It’s a moving picture, one whose strength derives in showing the glory of living free, rather than parading it around like a bumper sticker.