When I review films, I try not to give away too much of the plot and really try not to discuss major reveals in the movie, but in order to review this film I will have to discuss the central plot sequence.
Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) grew up being best friends. Now both women live near each other on the coast of Australia. Lil is a widow with a son named Ian (Xavier Samuel), and Roz is married to Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) and they have a son named Tom (James Frecheville). Just like their moms, Ben and Tom, both now nineteen, have grown up to be best friends and spend most of their days surfing together. The two families spend a lot of time together, mostly on the beach or at each other’s homes. Lil and Roz spend so much time together that there are rumors in town that they are lesbian lovers. Even Roz’s husband, Harold questions just how close the two women are.
Harold takes a teaching job in Sydney, which is a good distance from their coastal town and wants his family to follow him. Roz is hesitant to follow her husband, not wanting to move away from the life they have built on the coast and away from Lil, but she agrees to follow him in a few weeks after he settles. The two mothers and their sons spend just about all their waking hours in each other’s company. With her husband away, Roz starts spending time alone with Ian, Lil’s son. We can see that there is an attraction building between the two as they share a cigarette after a swim or when they are sitting on the porch together after a meal.
After a night when all four of them have been drinking, and everyone has gone to bed, the young men decide to both bunk at Roz’s house. Ian wakes up in the middle of the night and finds Roz getting a drink in the kitchen. He then makes a move on her, at which point she reciprocate and they end up sleeping together. The next morning, Tom see’s that Ian has slept with his mom. Feeling blindsided and betrayed, Tom decides to get back at the them, so he makes a move on Lil. At first Lil resists, but eventually she relents after having found out that her son is sleeping with her best friend, so she decides that they too should also start up a torrid, passionate affair.
This will be a disturbing film for many people to see as the two women are certainly mother figures to the two young men that they are having affairs with. I think what makes the two women accept that each other is having an affair with the other’s son, is the isolation of the two families. Their houses are on top of a hill overlooking the beach, far away from the town. The beach, where they spend most of their time, is always deserted, and the town they live in is extremely small. This gives the two women a feeling that they are on an island with the two boys and that the outside world and its mores doesn’t matter. It also helps that the two young men don’t see their time with the women as just a romp in the hay with a “cougar.” They in fact seem to genuinely care about the two women in their lives, especially Ian, who seems to have had feelings for Roz for a long time. The fact that both families have spent so much time together seems to have greatly contributed to this blurring of the lines, making the creation of this strange little family seems almost right and good to both women.
Anne Fontaine, in her English language debut, brings out the best in Wright and Watts, as each project a different take to their roles. Wright’s character of Roz, is the braver of the two, willing to fight for what she feels is right. Whereas, Watts’ portrayal of Lil is more hesitant in the relationship, though both show that they deeply care for each of the young men. Wright especially stands out, giving a strong, warm performance that is deeply layered with guilt, passion and love. These intense emotions are amplified in particularly in the scene where Ian makes the pass at her their first night together. As he kisses her, Roz pulls back several times as if she is thinking “should I keep doing this, should I let it go on?” To Fontaine’s credit and Wright’s extraordinary acting, there are no words uttered during this sequence and the director lets Wright tell us everything she is thinking through her use of her body language. Wright and Watts, through their actions give us reasons to why they would be willing to accept this very unmentionable situation.
Frecheville as Tom gives the weaker performance of the two young men. He has a tendency to hold back in his role, depending more on his good looks than his acting ability to deliver his scenes. Samuel as Ian, does an outstanding job, giving us some feeling and depth to what seems to be a very complex character.
Fontaine uses cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne’s photography to great effect. The shots of the coastline and it’s beach are breathtakingly beautiful. It’s an area that once you started living there you would never want to leave.
The film though is let down by the script and it’s clumsy dialogue. Lines such as “Now I feel really sinful” as Roz sneaks a drag off of Ian’s cigarette or “They look like Gods” as Roz admires the two boys early in the film, just comes off clunky and almost laughable. The film works best when Fontaine lets the camera just roll and follow the four characters as they enjoy each other company.
It’s a complex film that deals with a taboo subject, worth seeing for the superb performances of Wright and Watts, along with the breathtaking beauty of the Australian coast. I just wish the dialogue had fit the film better, to be able to match the passion and flair of the performances.
My Rating: Bargain Matinee
“Adore” is playing in Atlanta at LeFont Sandy Springs