The Adopted DVD Review

Actress and now director Mélanie Laurent delivers a somewhat one-dimensional performance as single-parent Lisa in her debut feature film, The Adopted.

That’s not to say she doesn’t play her part convincingly in this family drama; anyone who saw Laurent’s performance as the Jewish heroine Shosanna Dreyfus in Inglourious Basterds knows how talented she is. The problem with this rather predictable French weepie is despite each character being given their own narrative strand, and the distinct advantage of not much else really happening in The Adopted, none of them really develop to the point where you care about them.

Which is a shame, as there’s a lot of good things about Laurent’s co written film. We begin with an opening shot of Lisa as a little girl running down a corridor holding hands with her adopted sister Marine, who we discover was adopted by Lisa’s mother after both her parents were killed.

Flash forward 20 years and the girls are so inseparable they’re practically co-dependent. Lisa now has a little boy called Leo whom the three women bring up together, and who adds some comic relief in the first half of the film that you’ll be glad of by the time the melodramatic crux of the film starts to grate.

The Adopted sees Lisa silently sabotaging Marine’s new relationship with Alex, who Lisa dislikes for stealing her sister away. These early scenes between Marine and Alex are quite lovely, and as is de rigueur when reviewing a modern French film, slightly Amelie-esque.

During the sequence in which we see their love blossom, the two decide to don huge animal masks after every argument to judge how mad they are at each another. So when they laugh, we know it’s not that serious. Marie Debarnaud and Denis Menochet have great chemistry together, and it’s beautiful to watch their characters open up to each other.

Then, quite literally, bang. The adopted shifts from light drama to tragedy but, unfortunately, the characters have not been developed enough to carry the weight of this severe gear shift in plot.

By the end, you come away wondering what was the point of this film? Why did it matter that Marine was adopted? Why is Lisa so cold and distant and appears to hate men? Their mother’s alcoholism is mentioned once but, like these other questions, never explored.

And how on earth is Alex still single? The man creates a path of rose petals leading to a sweet note after sleeping with someone once for god’s sake! Did I mention he’s a food critic too? He couldn’t be more perfect, and yet he appears to have only one friend and no family.

As screenwriter, director and protagonist, I can’t help but feel Laurent has stretched herself too thin on this project and appears to have left the plot to somehow develop by itself.

That said, The Adopted is very mature in some aspects and beautifully shot. Laurent doesn’t shy away from using slow motion or soft-focus to heighten the drama in a scene, which add to some genuinely funny and touching moments between the characters.

I just wish I wasn’t left with more questions than answers.

Claire Coveney

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Dates ‘n stuff

April 2012