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This lovely movie was based on Doris Lessing's short story "The
Grandmothers". I just saw the premiere at Sundance and absolutely loved
it. Supposedly inspired by a true story, it's about two mothers who
really like their son's best friend (their best friend's son) And that
tag line is what you'll hear all about. Oh, the horror. I imagine
middle age male reviewers will not particularly like this movie, though
gay men will most likely love it. But it's a film about women--their
friendships, husbands, relationships, sons and lovers. It's directed by
Anne Fontaine, a French woman (which explains the exorbitant number of
scenes with smoking cigarettes, and an insanely un-American story
concept that young men might be attracted to older women.)
It's beautifully crafted (gorgeous cinematography) and has intelligent editing (watch for the skillful matched cuts that "age" the characters). The performances are all around great. Robin Wright is amazing--it's an Oscar caliber performance, however, the film probably won't get a large enough release to be on the radar for awards (sort of like poor John Hawkes not getting nominated for "The Sessions", what was the Academy thinking?) Of course, setting the movie in Australia means the other main character is the location. Tanned surfing teenage boys with model-beautiful mothers in bikinis, cowabunga mate (and significantly less handsome husbands and admirers, thankfully not shown in Speedos.)
There was laughter in the screening in places unexpected by the director, but this was probably just anxious laughter by viewers unaccustomed to thinking about middle aged women having sexual and emotional interest in younger men. Actually, I felt the laughter lightened up the viewing experience, and made the characters more human (okay, so I laughed and cried in this movie, but I never laughed at it.) At almost every story point where an expected turn would happen (if following Hollywood development script notes) the writer took what I call the "elegant decision" and pleasantly surprised me.
This is all around superb filmic story telling. Brilliant performances, intelligent and gentle direction, spectacular scenery, highly professional technical craftsmanship, and (for most of us, I expect) new emotional territory. It's a great film. I truly hope you get to see it.
A fascinating, intellectual and profound exploration of the psyches of
four uniquely damaged characters: two boys who never quite left the
womb, growing up in a small and affluent community far removed from
reality, with one father figure MIA, the other passive and
disconnected, and only their mothers for comfort and company; and two
women, who never conquered their fears of aging or their struggles with
self-esteem and sexual confidence, and whose intimate love for each
other and need to feel young and desired manifest themselves in
dangerous liaisons with each other's sons.
The premise is disturbing and unrealistic but a major strength of the film is that the characters' actions feel believable and understandable: but never condoned or really condemned. We are given such insight into their island-like community, their lifestyles, their dynamics and their psyches that it's perfectly clear why they fall into these simultaneously symbiotic and parasitic relationships. There is a nuance and an apathy to the directing that encourage the audience to focus more on the "how" and "why" rather than the "what." The film is never sexy or erotic because there is so much loneliness, pain and desperation in the sex scenes. The ocean metaphors strengthen the storytelling but never overwhelm it, and there is one particularly profound scene when Watts and Wright's granddaughters are lifted out of the very water that pulled them under and destroyed them.
The film lags around the mid-point, once the quartet has fallen into a rhythm and so there is no more conflict or tension, but picks up again once their group dynamic and Watts' character's happiness are threatened. The ending is disconcerted and unexpected, but on reflection, given the film's themes and the characters' self- destructiveness, it couldn't have convincingly ended any other way.
Wright and Watts do career-best work here (people who think Watts is often overwrought will like her here, I think) - both give understated but incredibly complex performances and create living, breathing, three- dimensional people out of these initially unbelievable women. Their guilt, neediness and agony are ever-present in their eyes even as the characters try to remain composed and rational. The boys aren't given as much to do but Xavier Samuel perfectly captures the confidence and faux-invulnerability of adolescence. It's also the first time Watts has laughed on screen in what must be years now, which is nice to see!
Overall, in spite of some silly dialogue, it's riveting, labyrinthine, and unique - it's been a very long time since an English-language film explored female sexuality and psychology as intimately and impartially as this one does. It feels more at home with 90's French dramas like La belle noiseuse and La cérémonie than it does in 2013. I'm not entirely surprised it's received such a hateful and crude reaction online, but it has a lot more to offer than a controversial setting, and I hope audiences will be able to look past the premise and see it not as an "issue film" but as the perceptive and devastating character study that it really is.
Well, I have to recommend this movie to anyone who wants to be stunned
by a cozy and atmospheric setting, a convenient cast, surprisingly calm
and well thought dialogs and a plot which sometimes triggers a variety
of mixed feelings like disgust & attraction, shame & dignity. Overall i
felt very calm and relaxed, sometimes i smiled, sometimes i wondered.
The film is so beautifully shot from beginning to end that every picture has its right to exist. Although the subject could be seen as a controversy to people who don't like to think outside the box it never felt like one. This made me think about what i would have thought if the gender of the characters would be the opposite. Despite that this would be a real challenge creating a movie which feels exact the same way i came to the conclusion that there is no equality in love and life and therefore this movie works for me like a charm.
The title of another (accurate) user review here can be misleading though and almost led me to skip this movie. This is definitely not a chick flick for grannies ;)
Let me start with saying that when the movie was finished and the
lights were on again, I did not want it to end. I wanted to see what
would happen even afterwards, I wanted it to continue. I was stunned to
my seat with lot of thoughts and emotions.
Plot: Two lifelong friends and mothers - Lil, who is a widower and Roz, who is married - whose bonds go back to their childhood, adore each other and their sons. Their sons are also best friends and during one summer evening after wine and fun Roz and Ian (Lil's son) are getting attracted to each other. Passion takes them into unknown and questionable territory - they have sex. Tom (Roz's son) sees his mother leaving Ian's room and Tom takes the news to Lil. It doesn't take long for Lil and Tom to fall into the same pattern.
There are hesitations, but these do not last long and the secret relationships continue until the plot takes you to 2 years later when Tom goes to Sydney. His visit to Sydney changes everything for four of them - the nasty truth has its way to come out and alter everybody's happy lives.
I loved the story. It was dramatic, heartbreaking, beautiful and sad. I loved the relationships and how these were handled in the movie. It's a story where you have high doubts about happy endings. But the plot and the director kept surprising you and it asked a lot of important questions. What kind of love is acceptable? Does age matter? Can people handle the consequences of their own actions and do these make them happy? Is it allowed to fall passionately in love when you are middle-aged? Why are people willing to give up on love even though they do not want to do that, but know it's the only reasonable thing to do? Is it love when you do what you think is best and hurt the one you love with that? All these and many other questions were raised and it is up to the viewer to decide and find the answers to them. What I loved about Adore was exactly, that the answers were not given to you, it woke a lot of thoughts.
Adore was filled with interesting relationships. My favorite was the relationship between Roz and Ian and it broke my heart to see what people do to the ones they love. Roz wanted to give Ian free because of her loyalty to Lil and because she wanted that Ian could enjoy his young life. The sad thing was, that Ian did not want that freedom, he ached for Roz for years, he loved her. Roz did what she felt was right and suffered because of that.
When you look at the relationship between Lil and Tom, it was simpler, but not easier for that matter. There were more secrets and these secrets hurt the not only themselves, but also Ian and Roz.
Adore is a movie about love and betrayal and relationships.
Directing, sets: I have seen few other movies directed by Anne Fontaine and Adore proved once again, than she is one of the best female contemporary directors. I personally think she did an excellent work with the movie.
The settings in the New South Wales in Australia were beautiful. There were lot of scenes on and nearby the sea and beach. It was absolutely breathtaking! Casting and the ensemble: Both Naomi Watts and Robin Wright belong to my long-time favorites and the delivered exactly and more what I expected from them. Bigger surprises were the young men playing Ian and Tom - Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville. I truly liked how they played their characters, they had quite a big tasks with these roles and they were believable and natural as Ian and Tom. Very suitable cast in my opinion.
Generally: Adore is a controversial movie. I think there are people who would love the imbroglio of relationships and friendships and then there are the ones who would judge them. I belong to the first group. I really enjoyed the drama!
I almost didn't watch this film due to its average rating and some of
the reviews here. I suspect the negative reviews have more to do with
people rigid world views and moral inclinations than actual capacity to
distinguish any kind of subtlety in the way the story unfolds.
Interestingly it doesn't actually unfold as one would expect and as some commentators have claimed.
Naomi Watts acting is excellent and the emotions she conveys make the story believable.
As for the 2 young surfer dudes, one of them actually looks a bit like Julian Wilson (Top pro surfer) which should be a pleasant surprise for the ladies out there.
The location, beach houses, cinematography are beautiful and makes you want to move to Australia. Just for that the movie is worth watching.
The audience is polarized in response to this astonishingly refreshing
and brilliant little film: some are completely disgusted with the theme
of 'aberrant love' while other are awash in the courageous work by
director Anne Fontaine, Fontaine and Christopher Hampton's adaptation
of Doris Lessing's short story 'The Grandmothers', and the acting by
two of our finest actresses on the screen. Knowing that it is both
loved and hated depending on the degree of appreciation for
experimental film should be the driving force as to whether or not to
take advantage witnessing this brave new film.
In New South Wales, Roz (Robin Wright), her husband Harold (Ben Mendelsohn) and their son Tom (James Frecheville) live near the beach. Lil, (Naomi Watts) who is a widow, lives nearby with her son Ian (Xavier Samuel). Roz and Lil are best friends, and so are Tom and Ian. Harold applies for and is offered a job in Sydney without telling Roz. He expects Roz to move to Sydney with him, however, she hesitates. After a night of drinking quite unexpectedly on the surface Ian and Roz start a sexual relationship. Tom discovers this and takes revenge by initiating a sexual relationship with Lil. Now Roz has even more reason to stay, and later Roz and Harold divorce. Two years of these two mothers/best friend's sons affairs pass but not without the inference that Roz and Lil are lesbians - a way for Lil to avoid the approach of a suitor Saul (Gary Sweet). Harold returns from Sydney and his new highly enviable job in the theater department and discovers the affairs and summarily absents himself from the situation and from Roz. There are hesitations, but these do not last long and the secret relationships continue. Eventually Tom goes to Sydney for a promising job interview in the theater. His visit to Sydney changes everything for four of them - the nasty truth has its way to come out and alter everybody's happy lives. The rest of the film is a rapidly moving progression of changing affinities and eventual strange resolutions.
The nuanced performances by Robin Wright and Naomi Watts are brilliant and very equally balanced with the sensuous and realistic portrayals By Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville. The chemistry is extraordinary and credible and makes what could have been a strained story work meticulously well. The cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne and the musical score by Christopher Gordon enhance the liquid flow of this stunning film. The story and the film itself require an emotionally mature audience able to accept variations on the themes of love and lust, but given there are mores to overcome, this is a brilliant art piece.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The director of this movie is a Frenchwoman. Of course, in French,
"mother" and "ocean" are homonyms.
Maybe it's just because I am celibate these days, but unlike some of the other reviewers, I saw a lot more morbidity here than I did desire.
One of the other reviewers praises Robin Wright's performance as a "strong woman". What? These women aren't strong...they are as craven and callow. They cede to the ultimate taboo: mother-son incest. Sure, they didn't quite officially cross that line...but they might as well have. The reason incest (by hook or by crook) is taboo has nothing to do with inbreeding...it is because it leads to subjective ruin. Nothing has quite the same devastating effect on one's subjectivity as a blurring of this one particular line. I thought that the film was a success here: what happens to these four characters is catastrophic. Two stunted, brainless male children...two decadent aging women who continue to giggle like preteen girls when they are together. Try to imagine these monsters in twenty years. Notice that no one is interested in anything...yes, we see cursory hints that they are interested in something besides fusion with each others' bodies (the art gallery, the yacht business, the theater stuff) but all of it is strictly external to the characters. They never use language with each other for any reason other than to seduce each other. This loss of the liberating force that is Logos is the consequence of incest. If you cross this line, you are ruined for the outside world...all that's left is your little floating island in the ocean. These two women with their endless glasses of wine, their silly giggling, their vanity, their narcissism...are nothing less than evil. Their sons are not likable either, and even though they are both portrayed as instigators in the narrow sense of the word, they are by definition victims. The failure of their respective attempts to break away from the womb can be laid at the feet of these two women who refuse to sacrifice anything for their precious pleasure. I am thinking of the scene where Ian spills the beans and sends the wives and babies running for the hills. When Ian claims, rightfully, that he was just telling the truth, Roz reproaches him with some chilling sophistry about "hurting people" or whatever. The director does a good job here of illustrating, without needing to belabor the point, how incest and Logos/subjectivity are incompatible, and how even if you do your best to tell the truth, the situation is in itself so dishonest as to be irredeemable through acknowledgment of any sort.
I took a couple of stars off because the pacing is a little slow. The actors are all good. The audience laughed when the two wives found out what was going on...I doubt that was the director's intention.
ADORE could have turned out really cheesy, but the very real characters, along with a nice blend of funny and sad moods, fitting soundtrack, and pretty Australian beach scenery keep it from becoming so. Fine performances by all the major players. Though more character and conflict development may seem needed at first, we get to know everyone and everything gradually, and the fact that they are all just fairly "normal" (whatever that is) people is pivotal. Not the greatest script, but it's nothing if not realistic.
Regarding the plot: The way the improbable quadrangle develops is pretty convincing. Even if what's happening in the premise is nothing illegal, it's obviously weird if not downright perverse. Yet, I was surprised to find myself rooting for both couples as ADORE proceeded, wanting them all to be happy together. The way the two women bear a superficial resemblance to each other, causing us to occasionally forget who's whose mum and who's whose lover, is another interesting effect. Finally, the isolated cove with its stationary sun-raft is an apropos symbol.
Though it's obviously not a "family film" or one for younger children, there is no gore, serious nudity (just a couple of brief booty-shots of Robin Wright and Xavier Samuel), or other flinchable elements (unless you count the multiple unexplicit sex scenes).
ADORE is one of the strongest, most satisfying films to come out in recent years, and I enjoyed it immensely.
this film is a masterpiece. not only because the casting/the
performance and the directing are stunning. it's more than eye can
see/words can say. and definitely, it's not for judges. and not for
everybody. just a 'niche'. it is touching and comprehensible and human
and not "generaly". doing "what's good/normal/suitable" versus "the
feeling, the pure one/the moment in a short human life/ the truth".
it's about age? that age that touch, maybe, the body but not the
spirit. it's about the capacity of giving/loving without hope, without
counting...it's about the pain.
somehow, loving without a future is like living well knowing that death waits at the corner. painful enough. as life itself.
I saw gentleness, delicacy, loyalty, generosity and suffering, friendship and generosity again and human fail. and pain. who's fault it is?
don't know the answer. know only that friendship, love, loyalty and pain, they do exists. tough destiny, after all.
Not enough words to considerate the performance of Robin Wright, Naomi Watts, Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville. Oscars were won for less.
As for the director, such a softness of the regard...perfect screenplay, perfect director cut. much deeper then the words of Doris Lessing, far away of "current diagnostics".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Just read thru about 20 or so reviews...."disgusting",
"disturbing"......you guys all seemed to have missed the mark on this
This movie shows you that you should follow your heart. So what if some of you small minded people find this situation "wrong". Then don't do it. doesn't mean others cant. It's society that is wrong. They were happy. But they kept trying to go against what they were feeling instead of flowing with it. They were all quite happy. What a shame that some people cannot live the life they want to be it homosexual, whatever, because they have so much societal pressure working against them. Shame shame shame!
And look how many lives were ruined? And for what? Because the guys were too young? Pfft. Real eye opener.
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