Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Film Review: Les Adoptés (The Adopted)

©Studio Canal
My media consumption is largely starved of quality Human Drama - partially because I'm a fan of psychological/horror, partially because a lot of my media consumption is in video games, and they tend not to handle emotional narrative too well. To that end, I do relish it when a well-made emotional rollercoaster comes along, and to that end Les Adoptés (The Adopted) knows how to push my buttons.

Maybe the reason for my appreciation is the 'Foreign Film' angle. I'm not pretentious enough to label non-English films as better by default, but it works in The Adopted's favour thanks to the cultural differences. While a romantic film about beautiful people living bohemian lives in Paris is nothing new, it feels just that little more understated compared to how Hollywood might handle it.

The plot follows sisters Marine (Marie Denarnaud) and Lisa (Mélanie Laurent), equally raising Lisa's child, Léo. Marine is actually adopted, but it's never proved a problem for the pair, having been best friends since childhood. Then, when Marine meets Alex (Denis Menochet), a ruggedly handsome (and I do mean handsome) food critic, Marie has to juggle the love of her life, and the fear of shattering the status-quo with her sister.

So far, so stereotypical, right? But there's a catch - at the end of the first act, Marine is suddenly out of the picture, and the narrative focuses on Lisa and Alex instead. The shift in tone is hardly whiplash, but it's clear that The Adopted isn't going to finish how it started out.

Still, the writing is definitely great at keeping pace. Dialogue is witty, especially that from Lisa's mother, Millie (Clémentine Célarié); possibly owed to a well-localised subtitles translation. I found myself enjoying the character ups-and-downs for the 100 minutes without thinking of how much longer the film was. That said, while the film's events were kept snappy from scene-to-scene, the actual sense of time progression was really vague. Knowing how much time passes over the course of the second act would do a lot more for empathising with the cast.

What really bowled me over was me not loathing Léo. Young children in cinema are, as a rule, entirely insufferable; both on screen and in the seats. And yet, i found myself largely tolerating this kid; even finding him somewhat... cute. How appalling; I must be going soft.

The Adopted is definitely a cheesy drama, but most likely more so by French standards than British. If you're looking for something relaxing but still engaging, this should be your film to watch this week.

This review can be found at The Yorker, here.

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