We often look for films that carry the sugary scent of a forbidden fruit. We seek out salacious content that will thrill and disturb, guided by our curiosity. Adore (original title: Two Mothers) is an example of where delving into the uncharted side of desire may lead us – and how a society’s appreciation for individuality may only exist on the surface.
The 2013 Australian-French drama, directed by Anne Fontaine [known for: Keep It Quiet, P.R.O.F.S.], is based on The Grandmothers by Doris Lessing – who passed away the same year the film was released. The story fleshes out the lives of two childhood best friends, Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts), who live within a walking distance of each other in New South Wales. Roz’s son Tom (James Frecheville) and Lil’s son Ian (Xavier Samuel) also happen to be best friends, and the four of them exist in the shatterproof Eden of their calm friendships. But desire sneaks into their world when the boys turn into young adults. Haunted by it, Ian and Roz give in, crossing an unspoken line. Lil and Tom soon follow. When one of the boys starts craving a sexual relationship with a woman his own age, the walls of their Eden shatter, revealing an outsider’s perspective on the anomaly that had become the characters’ norm.
The slowed-down pace of the film invites us on an uncomfortable journey through lust and its carnal elements – the strongest one being selfishness. This is perhaps why the film was received so poorly upon its release. The plot makes no excuses for the characters’ actions, presenting vulnerability in all its distasteful glory. Emotions, the driving forces of the plot, are mashed together in a very realistic way, often leading the characters to mistake yearning for love – and vice versa.
The stunning location we find ourselves in serves to lull us into a state of acceptance and understanding. Content, even. It is not until that calmness is splintered, that we find ourselves drowning in the same shame as our protagonists. The actors’ intimate portrayal of heightened vulnerability comes to life in these moments. We know we should avert our gazes, but the part of us that seeks absolute freedom starts to shiver in response. In the end, we find ourselves having to choose either conformity, or deviance from the norm. Both are alienating in their own ways, as we learn in Adore.