In her directorial debut The Adopted Mélanie Laurent (Rivals, Inglorious Basterds) has chosen a story to which the term ‘bitter-sweet’ will no doubt be applied. The actor, who also wrote and stars in the French drama, clearly has a lot invested in the film. A shame, then, that it is a clichéd and vaguely unpleasant look behind a seemingly liberal Parisian group which soon shows off traditional conservative attitudes.
Lisa (Laurent) and Marine’s (Marie Denarnaud) life is turned upside down when Marine meets and falls in love with Alex (Denis Menochet), a charming stereotype who shows his true colours when drunk. The pair of sisters – Marine was adopted by Lisa’s mother Millie (Clémantine Célarié) – do everything together including bringing up Lisa’s young son Leo. When Alex shows up this all changes, much to the delight of Millie, who was worried what the neighbours might think about two young attractive women living together. In her own words, people might think her daughter was a ‘muff diver’. She encourages Marine to return to Alex after a drunken argument because he is a man – and to her any man, even one as boorishly macho as Alex (a restaurant critic who enjoys tucking into veal), is better than no man at all.
Depressing exchanges like this reveal the staid conventionality behind the initial eccentric appearing characters. Lisa plays turgid folk rock in bars and Marine works in a bookshop with her friend, a ditz who is afraid to be touched. Perhaps her life would be improved by a man as well?
All of these distasteful clichés make the film a rather difficult one to like. The narrative concentrates first on Marine and her meeting and relationship with Alex. It then appears to run out of steam and, in what feel like a slightly desperate device, Marine is hit by a motorbike in a near-fatal accident. The focus shifts first to Lisa and then to Alex, who in a rare scene of interest sees Marine appear as a vision in his car.
Overall, though the drama feels forced and there is no real sense of the life changing events that befall the characters. As the barely realised plot continues, ‘bitter sweet’ gives way to overt sentimentality, culminating in a blisteringly saccharine scene where a photograph of Marine talks soothingly. At this point the film should prove too much for most discerning viewers, but there is a sneaking suspicion that the film will do a reasonable trade with Francophiles who like their suspicions of Parisian life confirmed.
Released on Region 2 DVD April 2, 2012 | Review by Rob Monk