In 10 Words or Less
Children cause trouble even when they don't exist
Dislikes: Foreign dramas
Hates: faux lesbian drama
As a married man in his late 20s, I can tell you that the pressure to have children, from family and society, is palpable. So when one doesn't want to, or isn't ready to, it can cause serious problems, especially within relationships. People in couples normally don't arrive at readiness and desire to have children at the same time, which makes matters worse. But if the couple isn't being honest with each other about these differences, the idea will destroy them.
That's the concept at the core of Producing Adults, Finland's entry for Best Foreign Film in 2004. Venla, a counselor at a fertility clinic, wants to have a child with her boyfriend Antero, who is obsessed with making it to the Olympics as a speedskater. His plan doesn't include children, and he's willing to go to great lengths to prevent them, but his secret efforts lead to strife between him and his girlfriend.
As a result of their troubles, Venla begins to spend time with a co-worker, a fertility doctor named Satu. She's helping Venla with her pregnancy issues, but their friendship becomes something more, and it's Antero who becomes the one concerned about the relationship. That Antero can hold Venla's deception against her, when he's done nothing but deceive her, shows just how selfish he is.
Venla isn't the innocent though, as Satu ends up emotionally bruised from Venla's confused exploration of an alternate sexuality. Just as Antero tries to make Venla the bad guy, Venla is cold and rude to Satu when she wants to be. There's a need to shift to Satu's world to tell her part of the story, but at the time it seems to make the film overly complicated. In the end, it probably introduces an artificial layer of conflict that wasn't necessary.
Director Aleksi Salmenperä has a few TV dramas under his belt, and the experience shows in the way this film illustrates the smaller dramas in life. As shot by Salmenperä, Producing Adults is a very intimate film, with many tight two-shots between characters. There are no sweeping landscapes or action set pieces, but the very wide aspect-ratio is used effectively to tell the story with well-composed shots.
When not filling tight two-shots, characters are left on their own in frames, giving them time to "think" or "obsess." It's a very effective way to show the characters' mindsets visually. That fits well with one of the more interesting choices he made in the film. At a therapy session Antero and Venla attend, there is no dialogue, forcing the actors to deliver the emotion physically. Thus, later, when the physicality is removed entirely, it has a larger impact on the emotion of the film. Unfortunately, the emotional impact precedes the final frame by a good margin, resulting in an anti-climactic climax.
The film is presented on one DVD, packaged in a standard keepcase. The main menu is full-frame and animated, and gives away several points of the film, including the ending. Options include the ability to play the film, select scenes and view extras. The scene selection menus include still previews for each scene, while there are no language or subtitle options and no closed captioning.
The letterboxed widescreen video of this 2.35:1 film is solid, but not spectacular, with good color and clarity. The movie's color palette is very cold, and the DVD does a good job of reproducing the look. The level of detail is acceptable, though the look can be a bit soft at times throughout the film, with what feels like a dull film over the picture, causing blacks at their darkest to come across closer to a heavy, dark gray.
The audio, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, is a solid mix, but as the soundtrack to a dialogue-driven drama, it wouldn't blow anyone away. Dialogue is well-reproduced, while the music soundtrack doesn't interfere, supporting the film well.
The film's theatrical trailer, offered in letterboxed widescreen, is good at highlighting the energy and drama of the film, but it's hardly representative of the film itself, as it comes across more like a thriller than a relationship drama.
Also included is a promo reel of Wolfe films, which is followed by a screen offering four additional trailers, and a sweepstakes entry screen.
The Bottom Line
Producing Adults is a well-done character study of people whose lives are tosssed about by the idea of children, either having them or not. Sure, there's a lesbian storyline that runs through the film, but it almost feels like it's not needed to tell this story, which is really about wanting kids. Unfortunately, that story is somewhat conveniently forgotten about, in order to focus on the lesbian tale. The DVD has a decent presentation and next to no extras, which limits its potential buying audience mainly to hardcore fans of Finnish or lesbian film. If you are in that group, you'll probably want to start with a rental anyway to test the waters.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.