Written by Lily Davis.
Surprisingly, this acutely Australian film comes from French director Anne Fontaine. Best known for Coco Avant Chanel and Chloe, Adoration (known as Adore in the States) is the first English language film for this acclaimed director. The story is based on a novella by Doris Lessing, and adapted for the screen by Christopher Hampton, who worked on both Dangerous Liaisons and Atonement.
Adoration tells the story of two mothers, their sons and the complex sexual relationship that develops between them. Lifelong friends Roz and Lil have grown up together in a quaint, coastal town. The intense bond between them is equally strong between their two sons, Tom and Ian. When Roz’s husband (Ben Mendelsohn) finds work in Sydney, Lil’s son makes a move on her in his absence. And so the entire sticky affair begins.
Let’s begin with the good stuff. Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, cast as the two mothers, are wonderful to watch on-screen. They both have a lovely and somewhat commanding presence. So much so, that it’s almost difficult to watch anyone else when they’re around. There is such a strong rapport between them, cementing the feeling that these two women have been friends their entire lives. Fontaine effectively evokes a deep sense of intimacy and understanding between the pair.
Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville are the two younger cast members. While both deliver, they simply can’t seem to pull focus from the two older actresses. While you may be excited at Ben Mendelsohn’s inclusion in the cast, you will only be sorely disappointed as he has almost no screen time. He is given barely anything to work with as the husband that is cast aside.
As well as enjoying an engaging cast, this film has great success in conjuring an innate sense of Australianness. You certainly would not pick that this is in fact a French-Australian production, with an American cast in one of the leading roles. Wright makes a highly commendable attempt at an Australian accent, which doesn’t at all detract from the authenticity of the film. Shot on the coast of New South Wales, the film boasts extraordinarily beautiful scenery. The families live right on the edge of an unoccupied beach with shimmering, crystal waters. It’s paradise.
With that said, there are major flaws that detract immensely from the overall experience. The first of which is the film’s relationship with realism. The film would be a lot more successful had it wholeheartedly committed to depicting realism, or straying from it entirely. Fontaine wavers between both ideas, negatively impacting the film in the process. Significant moments in the film suggest an attempt at authenticity, but other elements are completely and utterly unrealistic. Each of these characters lack understandable motivations for their actions. It is incredibly frustrating to watch people act with such unclear impulses. Another point of concern within the film was the lack of emotional realism. Without spoiling too much, there were plot developments that warranted far more passion. At times, it’s difficult to imagine how their emotional responses could possibly be so restrained.
Adoration is an interesting film and at no point will you be glancing towards the exit, but there are many elements that are very disappointing. The narrative itself is interesting enough to carry the film forward, however the many unanswered questions are frustrating rather than intriguing.
THE REEL SCORE: 4/10