Adore – BFI London Film Festival

Well… this is a strange one. Adore is the story of childhood female friends who grow up together and continue to live next door in beautiful cliff edge beach houses in Australia. Lil, played by Naomi Watts, loses her husband and lives alone with her son Ian. Roz, played by Robin Wright, is married to Harold and they also have a son of an equivalent age, Tom, who is likewise Ian’s best friend. The film, based on a Doris Lessing story, gets going when the two women are 40, and decide to embark on corresponding affairs with each other’s sons (aged about 20). Yep, it’s pretty weird, and the film really doesn’t work.

What should have been an interesting premise is turned into a hugely preposterous melodrama. I’ve never seen such a negative audience reaction to a film and people laughed out loud at the clunky ridiculousness of it. The main problem is the lack of genuine emotional response to any of the events. Roz is first to succumb after a party – her husband of 20 years has recently been offered the job of lifetime in Sydney where he heads for two weeks expecting his family to follow – so because he’s not there Roz begins her affair with Lil’s son Ian. There’s no build up to this, no lingering looks or indication she’s unhappy in her marriage, in fact quite the opposite. It makes no sense. But it gets worse; Tom sees them and goes to tell Lil. You would imagine that her maternal instinct would be shocked, sickened, angry, disgusted by her friend’s predatory behaviour; she should march round there, confront her and end their friendship – right? Err… no. Naomi Watts as Lil tries to be perplexed for a second, but she’s probably wondering how her career will survive a series of rubbish films. Instead of a ‘normal’ reaction, she just starts a relationship with Tom. Two minutes later, everyone is fine with it and they just carry on. What?!!

This happens throughout the film, where you expect reactions from the characters you don’t get them. Ian and Tom both seem fine that their best friend has gone after their mum, and Roz waves goodbye to her 20 year marriage with barely a flicker. We’re supposed to believe that people would react like this and that no one in the small community would notice over a number of years. At under two hours, too many loose ends make it feel like three; events occur and are resolved so quickly it makes Downton Abbey look sluggish. There are pockets of good stuff; the acting is pretty decent and the visuals are lovely – although some of the metaphors are a bit heavy handed such as the floating platform they all swim out to – yes I get it, this is the fragile rocky little world they’re creating. Even if you can accept the son-swapping, it needed to be more human and more dramatic; perhaps one couple who genuinely fall for each other, and the other out for revenge exploring how this tears the various inter-relationships apart. Fortunately (for them), none of the people involved turned up to talk about the film so we left with no idea why they’d bothered to make it. On the plus side I did see Albert Finney in Tesco Piccadilly beforehand, so not an entirely wasted day.

 The BFI London Film Festival is on until 20th October.


About Maryam Philpott

This blog takes a more discursive and in-depth approach to reviewing a range of interesting cultural activities in London, covering everything from theatre to exhibitions, films and heritage. I am part of the London theatre critic team for The Reviews Hub where I have professionally reviewed over 350 shows. It was set up in 2007 to review all forms of professional theatre nationwide including Fringe and West End. My background is in social and cultural history and I published a book entitled Air and Sea Power in World War One which examines the experience of the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy. View all posts by Maryam Philpott

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