Capsule Review – Adore

by allan tong for FILMbutton

Roz and Lil (Robin Wright and Naomi Watts) have been close friends since childhood, and now happily live side-by-side on an Australian beach. Life is perfect, until Lil’s husband passes away, and later Roz divorces her husband, Harold, (Ben Mendelsohn) after he lands a job in distant Sydney and Roz refuses to move away from Lil.

However, what truly shatters their idyllic lives is Lil’s son, Ian, (Xavier Samuel) sleeping with Roz, a woman he’s known all his life. Tom (James Frecheville) retaliates by bedding Lil. Nothing is ever the same again.

In lesser hands, Adore would have been a sensationalistic MILF fantasy centering on two beautiful fortysomething women bedding two hunks half their age. Instead, co-screenwriter Christopher Hampton and director Anne Fontaine (Nathalie, Coco avant Chanel) turn Adore into an absorbing character study of two women accepting the inevitability of age. Robin Wright is especially convincing as the mature woman trying to end a doomed relationship with a younger lover. She is seductive, yet haunted.

The sons are merely secondary characters to Roz and Lil, almost one-dimensional. They aren’t helped by a weak performance from Frecheville. In contrast, Mendelsohn is strong as the sensitive ex-husband, though it’s surprisingly that his character never uncovers The Secret between the four.

Adore is faithfully based on Doris Lessing’s novella, The Grandmothers, and shares the same flawed ending: there isn’t one—and that is dissatisfying. Perhaps it’s intentional that Fontaine, like Lessing, are challenging the audience to decide whether you should condemn or empathize with these unusual lovers. Because of this, Adore will polarize audiences. If you accept the premise, then the film will be rewarding and troubling.

Allan is a Toronto filmmaker, co-directing Leone Stars, a documentary about child victims of the Sierra Leonean civil war.

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