In New South Wales, off the coast of Australia, Adore immediately switches sharply from girls playing on the beach (is this about childhood?) to a funeral (is this about death?) and finally to the relationships at hand (is this about love?). Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), in the first scene, lust after the “God”-like bodies of their sons Tom (James Frecheville) and Ian (Xavier Samuel). A small-cast indicates that we may be in a similar territory to Closer. A foursome – made five by Harold (Ben Mendelsohn), Roz’s husband – may find themselves switching roles throughout the film to dramatic and passionate effect. Unfortunately, this is an expectation that is not met. Instead, Harold disappears for the majority of the film, while the director charts the relationships between the remaining four characters.
Adore (Anne Fontaine, 2013)
Sex, sea and a highly commended cast; one would imagine Adore to be a sultry and deeply affectionate take on lust and love. Two actors from the critically acclaimed Animal Kingdom, the scene-stealing Robin Wright from House of Cards should bode well. Instead, Adore is a weak romance with a clunky and laughable script. Smug direction believes that holding on a character that looks to the mid-distance will automatically generate a heightened sense of emotion. It doesn’t and the forced attempt at passion rings false.
These strapping young men, and Frecheville carrying himself like Michelangelo’s David with his curls, defined nose and chiselled torso, seem to lack any social skills. The young boys are confident enough to successfully bed their mothers friends, with smooth, sexy exchanges such as – “Have you forgotten something”, and he replies “yes…” before kissing her. But it begs the question where the young, beach babes of Australia have hidden away. For example, towards the end, we join a 21st birthday party and, it turns out, they are not complete recluses. Attractive friends we have never seen before seem content in swilling the drinks on offer – are these friends oblivious to the incestuous relationships brewing behind the scenes?
Adore plays to an older crowd, sexualising the younger men for the gratification of the voyeuristic audience, but this only highlights how Roz and Lil are powerless to their desperate urges. The young men place pressure on, and convince, their respective mother’s mate to sleep with them. Tom even takes it upon himself, without consent, to sleep in Lil’s bed. He is aware that his abs cannot be resisted by the desperate old-lady Naomi Watts. Certainly, this relationship only emerges through the reveal of Roz and Ian’s trysts – as if Lil and Tom are only sleeping together out of spite. As incredibly attractive, mature and intelligent women, Lil and Roz aren’t shy and should choose to initiate the sexual exploits. Instead, the loner sons – whose idea of a fun weekend is getting drunk with their Mum and her friend – are the initiators.
The jumps between years are flippant and skip past moments we are keen to see giving no sense of pace. We plod along with an early awareness that resolution and a satisfying conclusion is not on the cards. All actors try so hard at weaving truth into the lines that awkwardly shape the story. But when a montage of the relationships in full-swing is followed by a dull conversation, as Roz and Lil matter-of-factly state how they feel, you know there is a serious problem. In fact, that particular sequence was met by a loud laugh from the entire audience I was with during the London Film Festival. That can’t be good. Adore is a drawn-out mess of a film. The perfect beaches and rippling waves only remind you that, rather than sitting inside a dark room, maybe a couple of hours on a beach is what we all need. In fact, a production on a stunning beach for a couple of weeks, may be what attracted the cast in the first place – because it sure as hell wasn’t the script.
This London Film Festival review was originally written for TQS Magazine.