The Adopted

The Adopted


Reviewed by: James Benefield

Mélanie Laurent's directorial debut is a Gallic romantic drama underpinned by alternately wistful and dark edges.

In it, we follow Marine (Marie Denarnaud) who meets tall, dark and handsome food critic Alex (a brooding but, of course, terribly sensitive type played by Denis Menochet) in the bookshop at which she works. She sells him some short stories by Raymond Carver, but he's not much of a reader; he came into the shop to shelter from the rain and because he saw a beautiful woman. Thankfully, she likes him too, and they soon start dating.

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As relationship becomes more serious, it also becomes uncomfortably difficult to sustain. Marine's complicated, intense bond with her troubled sister Lisa (played by Laurent), and her own history of serial monogamy, threaten to destabilise the couple. Lisa is incredibly jealous, and there's an edge of obsessiveness to her; it's implied she's had a hand in destroying her sister's past romances. But after some soul searching and a chance encounter in the street, things generally appear a little better between the pair. It now seems like only something awful happening would split them. Then the worst happens.

Even though the frenetic narrative pace then slows down, there's a lot of ground still to cover in the slightly mean running time. Tonally, it's all over the place, jumping from melancholy to mirth in a heartbeat with only an autumnal soundtrack of acoustic guitar to bind it together. There is some consistency in that it looks beautiful, and throughout the dark and light there's this odd, detached sensibility present throughout – somewhere between whimsy and wistfulness. When all this is combined, it does feel a little glossy in places, displaying a certain kind of tastefulness despite the story's flecks of darkness.

But, ultimately, as you would expect from an actor turned director (here, Inglourious Basterds star Laurent), this is an actor's movie. All concerned get to express a wide range – with Menochet coming out the closest to a rounded, three dimensional character. There's a lovely dream sequence later on with him and Denernaud, where Menochet, in particular, breaks your heart. It's probably the acting that almost saves the film from its histrionic third act which spectacularly fails to tie up the underlying elegiac quality with the drama on the surface.

Although not as profound as it wants to be, this Gallic romantic drama is still diverting enough thanks to its performances.

Reviewed on: 23 Apr 2012
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A fragile new relationship is imperilled when tragedy strikes.
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Director: Mélanie Laurent

Writer: Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Perez

Starring: Marie Denarnaud, Denis Menochet, Clémentine Célarié, Mélanie Laurent, Théodore Maquet-Foucher

Year: 2011

Runtime: 100 minutes

Country: France


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