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Adore (also known as Perfect Mothers in certain countries) is a serious dramatic film from the acclaimed filmmaker Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel), and it is an adaptation of a short novel written by Doris Lessing. This adaptation was done by Christopher Hampton (screenwriter) and Anne Fontaine, who also worked on planning the adaptation.
The film's story focuses upon two close life-long friends, Lil (Naomi Watts) and Roz (Robin Wright), who have grown up together since childhood. They have each had disappointingly underwhelming relationships with the men in their lives. They both have close attachments, however, to their separate sons who they have both helped to raise (in a way, each of them almost acted as a second mother). As the storyline unfolds, the audience sees the boys have become adults, named Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frencheville). Over some time spent amidst all four of them, the son of Lil falls for Roz. Conversely, Roz's son falls for Lil.
Adore is in essence a complicated romantic drama about what happens when two close lifelong friends begin to have affections for each other's sons, who are mutually interested in them. The story is one that could have easily been overly melodramatic and poorly done: something more focused upon a 'thriller' aspect or on making the film's romantic element feel more akin to what some might describe as being a 'guilty pleasure' of some sort. Yet this is not what Adore sets out to do and accomplishes through the superb direction from Fontaine.
The film has a slow-building, well-paced approach where the focus always remains upon these characters and the story that involves (and revolves) around them. While the script is mostly a quiet one - many sequences focus primarily upon the expressive acting of the performers more than anything - the detail and performance delivered by the lead cast is rather remarkable. The cast works well in unison to form a cohesive and intelligent ensemble.
Naomi Watts (who is in fact my favorite actress) delivers an exceptional performance here. The emotion of the character is strongly felt both during the scenes where the character is becoming attached to the son of her best friend and when the character faces emotional turmoil when the question arises as to if it's possible for the younger man and herself to stay together: did they cross a line (the mothers) or is it simply a matter of time before these newfound relationships meet their demise? These are some of the emotionally complex questions that are asked in the storytelling of Adore.
Robin Wright is equally up for the challenge Fontaine placed as a filmmaker. Her performance may have even been the most complex to portray. Roz is quiet the fascinating character. She is frequently solemn and lost within her own world but she is also deeply attached to her friend Lil, and the relationship that she forms with Lil's son almost seems to be a bridge connecting the two.
One particularly fascinating aspect of Adore is found in the way in which ambiguity exists in the storyline. The relationship between Lil and Roz is never quite clear -- this is of course debatable. However, there are several key moments in the film in which their closeness to one another was raised as a question by other characters in the story. The suggestion being that Lil and Roz were in a relationship together that was more than what others had originally thought. This is notable as these characters laugh-off the suggestion but they also discuss (vaguely) a time that they both spent "experimenting" together. One might make the hypothesis that these characters are in love, more so than either is willing to admit, and that the relationships with each other's sons is in an unusual way a form of connection that brings them closer to one another emotionally. This is a possible interpretation.
Of course, one could easily walk away from the experience thinking the story was about other metaphorical concepts, or that it was really a straightforward dramatic story about how many complications can arise in romance and love. Either way, I found the story fascinating, sad, compelling, and intelligent. It also features an ambiguous final scene, one which hints at a possible future or that harkens back to an earlier moment in the film simply as reflection.
Fontaine once again collaborates with cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne, who adds a remarkable visual sensibility to the filmmaking with lushly realized color combined with a modern, clean, and beautiful photographic approach. Adore also features an excellent score composed by Christopher Gordon, which adds an appropriate backdrop to the feature that is emotionally resonant when needed and breezy as well. There is much to appreciate about this film. While I don't consider Adore as impressive as Coco Before Chanel (which is amongst my favorite films of the past several years) it is nonetheless an ambitious effort with a lot of great qualities: performances, music, cinematography, and Fontaine's unique creative approach. Fans of art-house cinema and compelling relationship-based dramas will find a lot to appreciate with this effort.
Adore features a remarkable transfer with a 1080p HD presentation that preserves the original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. This is another winning transfer from Paramount. The MPEG-4 AVC encoding has a tremendous bit-rate that often resides comfortably in the 30mbps range (and which often peaks around 40 mbps, a tremendous bit-rate range for any film). Viewers will undoubtedly find this transfer to be perfectly satisfactory. I noticed no anomalies with the transfer and it was remarkable to discover such a first-rate presentation given to this film.
The audio presentation is a good match for the tremendous video presentation. While it's not a bass-heavy presentation with a lot of 'overwhelming' surround usage (nor should it be given it would feel out of place in this romantic drama) it's a rather intelligently designed sound mix, one which features decent surround activity and an enveloping approach with regards to the music score and occasional ambiance provided by sound-effects in the film.
I was not expecting a great deal from the audio presentation and was surprised by how lush and effective the sound design ultimately was on this release. It's a commendable DTS-HD Master Audio presentation utilizing 5.1 surround sound. Adore has received a good lossless boost on Blu-ray that should leave discerning audiophiles satisfied with the presentation.
Subtitles are provided in English, English SDH (for the deaf and hard of hearing), and Spanish.
There are no supplements on this Blu-ray release. It's a bit disappointing that no extras are included as I would have liked to know some background information on the filmmaking, Fontaine's approach, and perhaps some thoughts on the film by the cast.
Adore is a compelling and effectively made romantic-drama with remarkable lead performances by Naomi Watts and Robin Wright. With the stellar artistic direction of Anne Fontaine, this is a worthwhile and impressive achievement both as an intimate character-study and as a technically well-mounted production. Fans of dramatic cinema and art-house fare will appreciate the many layers of the story and performances.
Presented on Blu-ray with stellar PQ/AQ but without any bonus materials, the release merits a strong recommendation based on the quality of the film and it's quality technical presentation.
Neil Lumbard is a lifelong fan of cinema. He aspires to make movies and has written two screenplays on spec. He loves writing, and currently does in Texas.