Adopting Audrey


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Adopting Audrey
"Cinema presents us with no end of films focused on romantic love. This is a different kind of love story, addressing what, for many people, is an equally deep human need." | Photo: courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

Audrey likes to watch animal videos – dogs and porcupines and capybaras. They seem to make her feel less alone. She doesn’t really need to be alone – she’s a likeable young woman whom lots of people are drawn to – but although she knows how to endear herself to strangers, she’s equally good at setting up barriers which keep anybody from getting too close. There’s a certain stand-offishness about her, an unwillingness to stick with anything, which separates her from the world. Early in the film, we see her lover leave her, see her get fired from yet another job. This is how she expects life to be – but when she’s taking refuge in animal videos and thinking about adopting a dog, she comes across something unexpected.

Adult adoption, long practised in East Asian countries, is growing in popularity in the West. it provides comfort for empty nesters, a sense of security for the rootless and a second chance for those who missed out the first time around. Audrey’s parents are alive but she doesn’t feel close to them. For reasons which she finds hard to pinpoint, she feels as though something is missing. Her first few meetings with prospective new parents don’t go as well as she might have hoped, but when she meets the warm, affectionate Sunny (Emily Kuroda), things start to look much more problem. There’s just one problem – Sunny hasn’t yet told her husband.

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Despite another strong performance from the chameleonic Jena Malone in the lead, it is Robert Hunger-Bühler’s Otto who is the film’s star attraction. He’s retired from NASA, and when Audrey asks him what he did there he responds by asking if she’s qualified to understand. Where Audrey drifts along without much sense of purpose, Otto is resolute about the most trivial matters, relentlessly petty and set in his ways yet somehow likeable despite it. Against the odds, he and Audrey form a firm friendship, and it’s their interactions which provide the film’s comedy and heart.

Alongside this, Adopting Audrey presents a study in the dynamics of families with adult children. Audrey is not Otto and Sunny’s only child, and meeting her new relatives, who are puzzled at first but quickly warm to her, gives her a much more expansive, fuller life. Inevitably, there is friction, though it is borne with grace. Otto has had time to figure out where he has made mistakes in the past. Now, for Audrey, he wants to get everything right. She, despite her listlessness, is unafraid of hard work, and with his prompting she throws herself into family life, fixing up a treehouse for his grandchildren, accompanying him on the trips that everybody else is bored of. it’s a do-over for both of them. The big question for Audrey is how this will change her understanding of the tensions in her birth family. It might also be an opportunity for her to finally learn how to be alone.

Cinema presents us with no end of films focused on romantic love. This is a different kind of love story, addressing what, for many people, is an equally deep human need. In a society whose structures tend to keep people of different generations apart, it looks at what we might offer to each other given the opportunity, and its characters’ imperfections create space to tease out the complexities of that. With a light touch, it pokes fun at things which most people take for granted, but the warmth underlying it all will ensure that you leave the cinema smiling.

Reviewed on: 02 Mar 2023
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Adopting Audrey packshot
An adult woman puts herself up for adoption and forms a bond with the misanthropic patriarch of her adoptive family. Based on a true story.

Director: M Cahill

Writer: M Cahill

Starring: Jena Malone, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Emily Kuroda, Will Rogers, Brooke Bloom

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

Country: US


Glasgow 2023

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