The Adopted review (DVD)

The Adopted is the story of Marine, Lisa, and their mother Millie. Millie adopted Marine at an early age, and the two adopted sisters Marine and Lisa have been almost inseparable since then. So when Marine falls in love it changes the balance of the relationship between the three forever, becoming strained and difficult. Then when disaster hits, they have to figure out how, if at all, they can repair their bond.

I should probably explain two factors that were hugely important prior to my viewing of The Adopted.

Firstly, without knowing anything about the film, other than its country of origin, I presumed it was a horror film, just because of it’s name. It is not, and in fact could not be further from it.

Secondly, I have something of a love/hate relationship with French cinema, sometimes it is wonderful (La Haine, A bout de soufflé etc), and sometimes it’s awful (the majority of what’s left, a big statement I appreciate, and acknowledged as a sweeping generalisation), often far too knowing and far too pompous to be likeable. There are often main characters that come across as smug, and generally repugnant, and a stylistic approach which always seems to prioritise style over substance. This is not a diatribe about French culture incidentally; I am a great admirer of French food, music, and their laissez-faire attitude towards a lot of the smaller problems that we tend to obsess about here in Britain, just not their cinema.

Having said that, The Adopted is a reasonably entertaining, if not slightly saccharine affair. While it would be unfair to describe The Adopted as a ‘chick flick’ (it takes itself far too serious for that) it is an incredibly melodramatic film, and although the characters are intriguing, and the relationship between Marine and Lisa is engaging, they often come across as sniping and bitching at each other over issues that really would be easy to fix with a little common sense. I appreciate  this is for dramatic effect, but it doesn’t ring true, despite the attempts to tell what is intended to be a simplistic story about family dynamics. Laurent is excellent as Lisa, the sister who feels abandoned by the very girl she has, from her perspective, spent her life looking after (though Lisa does already having a child, so presumably had already had her own love-life drama, which makes it strange that her sister falling in love is such a big deal). Denarnaud puts in a good turn as the adopted sister torn between love and family, while Menochet is decent as the boyfriend who although seems dashing and loving, has a streak of poison about him.

Laurent who may be recognisable for her excellent turn in Tarrantino’s Inglorious Basterds, is not only starring in, but also making her directorial debut with The Adopted, and she does show promise, especially in the pacing of the film, which remains fairly steady throughout. Her grasp of how to frame her characters to get the most from them (be it through lingering reactions, or body language) is excellent, and she certainly seems to have a bright future as a director based on this evidence.

It is the script that lets the film down though, as the characters are really quite one dimensional, never really taking on any sort of depth, despite the actors best efforts, and making the whole scenario feel very artificial. It feels as though with another draft of the script it could have been excellent, but it seems almost as though it was rushed into production.

The Adopted is an entertaining melodrama, and Laurent does well in trying to make a film that deals with every day, quasi ‘kitchen sink’ drama, but inevitably it falls flat, and whilst perfectly acceptable does very little to distinguish itself from other films in the genre. It avoids the flaws I mentioned previously that often ruin French cinema for me, but it still feels as though it isn’t everything it could have been.


Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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