The passage of time is unrelenting and often unforgiving, and many people do new things to make themselves feel young again. Perhaps a sports car, a spot of Botox or an affair with a younger partner rekindles the spark of youth.
Based on the Nobel prize-winning novelist Doris Lessing’s The Grandmothers (very loosely it would seem), Adoration is a French-Australian joint production that certainly aspires to the European art-house. The film follows two very close women, friends since childhood, living in a small, idyllic community in coastal Australia. After a short prologue of the girls as kids, and then Lil (Naomi Watts) being widowed while the two friends’ sons are still young, we move ten years forward, when Roz’s (Robin Wright) husband takes a teaching job away in Sydney. The women’s sons have grown into sun-dappled, muscular surfers, and the four of them are left to drink, eat, lie on the beach and swim in the ocean together in this paradise.
What follows is undoubtedly meant to be a meditation on ageing, the importance of being desired, societal norms, friendship and the mother-son relationship; but it’s just so overly serious, poorly written and downright unbelievable that these meanings are all lost in its implausibility. The fatherless Ian (Xavier Samuels) suddenly decides that he wants to sleep with the woman who’s been like a second mum to him, and after a few scenes of awkward sexual tensions, succeeds following a more liquid dinner. However, Roz’s son Tom (James Frecheville) spots her sneaking out of the room, and proceeds to enact his revenge by returning the favour with Lil.
The trysts are soon exposed but instead of fall-out, of how one decision can tear everything apart, there’s some little discussion and the four of them settle into two couples, with everyone apparently cool with the situation. I mean, who wouldn’t be happy with their childhood best mate fucking their mum? There’s no real force behind the relationships – no great passion, confusion, doubt or desire, they just kind of happen. This should all be over the top or at least more self-aware of the inherent humour of the situation; but it’s all so deadly serious that the only laughs are unintended ones from the often second-rate dialogue.
Wright and Watts are undoubtedly fine actors, but even they and Ben Mendelsohncan’t save this sinking ship. That’s the strange thing here, nobody is bad in this film, the acting isn’t close to terrible at all, but it just does not work. There’s no real connection between the main characters and the audience, especially with the sons, so it’s difficult to care or feel anything for them when the real world and life gets in the way and things inevitably start to fall apart. Parts of the film had me facepalming in disbelief, which could have been happily suspended it if I was entertained. But as the obstacles to the relationships were thrown in the way, as more people looked off into the middle distance, and this older lady’s fantasy novel became more soap operaesque, it became clear that this was impossible. Director Anne Fontaine (Coco Avant Chanel) provides some nice shots in what is a beautiful location (Seal Rocks NSW), but they are ultimately completely overshadowed by the ludicrous plotting.
Fatally hampered by poor dialogue and plotting that prevents the suspension of disbelief, Adoration could have been so much more than this avoidable bore.
Adoration is in cinemas now.
Starring: Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by: Anne Fontaine
Written by: Christopher Hampton
Distributed by: Hopscotch Films