A pseudo-Oedipal drama about forbidden love in the Australian East Coast, Adore (aka Two Mothers) is a luscious and non-judgemental tale about two best friends who sleep with each other’s sons. Yup, you read correctly. Where the film could easily turn into a Milfy sex romp with plenty of al fresco loving on the Ozzie shore (and believe me, at times, it hovers dangerously on that line), Adore is instead a nuanced portrayal of a group of people who find all they need in an unconventional romantic set-up.
Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright) are lifelong best friends who lead a more than idyllic life on the East Coast barrier between the forest and the water. Each has a gorgeous son, and I mean gorgeous. Ian (played by Xavier Samuel) and Tom, played by James Frecheville from David Michôd’s Animal Kingdom (2010), are two young and Adonis-like surfers with abs you could rest your dinner on, and the kind of rugged sporty demeanour that wouldn’t look amiss in a slow-mo sequence in Home and Away. Roz’s husband (Ben Mendelsohn) gets a new job offer at Sydney University which threatens to put a stop to their perfect life. Then, suddenly, the sexual chemistry between Roz and Lil’s son Ian escalates. Stung by the betrayal, Tom makes a pass at Lil, and soon the four of them are pursuing a less than normal love affair away from the prying eyes of their neighbours. Until, predictably, attentions move elsewhere, and the dynamics of the ménage a quatre are disrupted.
Beach bums: Robin Wright and Naomi Watts.
Adore is the English-language debut of French film director Ann Fontaine (of Coco Before Chanel fame), and there is certainly something ‘very French’ about the film’s goings-on, if with a sprinkle of East Coast gold dust. The film was adapted by Christopher Hampton from Doris Lessing’s novella 'The Grandmothers' (2003), which was supposedly inspired by real events. Cinematographer Christoph Beaucarne (his surname, meaning ‘beautiful flesh’ in French, cannot possibly be an accident!) brings out the warm colours of sunkissed skin and the East Coast light perfectly. The landscape is pregnant with sexuality, so maybe we can excuse the film’s leads for crossing some barriers.
It’s amazing that we still consider expressions of female sexuality unusual (particularly those from an older woman’s perspective), and Fontaine’s film does just that, even if the problematic dynamics of the set-up sometimes fall into the Milf cliché. Fontaine’s camera hovers over the bodies of these bronzed young men, in a way that will surely ruffle a couple of feathers.
Notwithstanding the characters’ obvious and unexplained privilege and the erotic bubble which they are unable to burst from, Fontaine still manages to have you gunning for them as various complications get in the way. This is an unapologetic story about beautiful, rich, white people bonking, to put it crudely, although in this sense, the film sticks very much to its literary source. Lessing’s novella makes clear that: "These lives were easy. Not many people in the world have lives so pleasant, unproblematical, unreflecting: no one in these blessed coasts lay awake and wept for their sins, or for money, let alone for food."
The narrative may be vaguely improbable, and the descent into soap opera melodrama a little irritating; this isn’t helped by its super-glossy sheen and an overly majestic orchestral score by Christopher Gordon and Antony Partos. Adore is pure escapism: entertaining, sexy and beautifully shot, with some subtle and commendable performances from Watts and Wright. Maybe not one to watch with your mum, though.
Follow Sophia on Twitter: @SophiaSB1