Today: February 28, 2024

The Adopted

– By Sam Haysom – The Adopted is a film that defies expectations.

– By Sam Haysom

The Adopted is a film that defies expectations. After the
first ten minutes you could be forgiven for anticipating a light hearted family
drama with romantic overtones, but this is a long way from what Mélanie
Laurent
’s film ultimately delivers. While The Adopted does provide a moving
depiction of both family life and a burgeoning relationship, it also offers a
powerful and extremely poignant insight into how people cope with sudden
tragedy.

The film centres around the
lives of Lisa (Mélanie Laurent) and her adoptive sister Marine (Marie Denarnaud),
who have been brought up together and clearly share a firm bond. Their
relationship is altered when Marine falls in love with Alex (Denis Menochet),
whose sudden, rain-soaked arrival in the bookstore where Marine works seems to
perfectly mirror her desire for a storybook romance. The first Act develops
with the sense that, like the fictional love stories Marine so eagerly
consumes, the happiness cannot last forever.

This proves to be the case.
The Adopted cleverly draws the viewer into the myriad of lives portrayed,
subtly building character relationships in the opening Act before abruptly
pulling the rug out from under us. For it is ultimately Lisa’s more cynical life
view that triumphs over Marine’s romanticism, as the latter is involved in a
sudden road accident and left comatose, shattering the lives of her family and
turning the film completely on its head. Marine’s subsequent absence from The
Adopted becomes a sort of presence in itself, something around which the other
characters gravitate while they struggle to make sense of what has happened.

The second two Acts of the
film mirror the fragmentation felt by the characters, picking out snapshots of
dialogue and specific moments that build to create a moving picture of grief
and loss. The acting is excellent throughout, and the equally strong character
development never feels forced. Denis Menochet’s gentle portrayal of the
bear-like Alex, for instance, is brilliantly offset by scenes that reveal his
explosive temper; Mélanie Laurent is also superb as Lisa, who appears
standoffish at first but is slowly revealed to be both warm and vulnerable.

While The Adopted may not be
strikingly original in terms of thematic content, the film’s execution is
almost poetic in its beauty. We really believe the love that Lisa and Alex feel
for Marine, and certain scenes are powerful enough to resonate long after the
film’s conclusion. In one particularly memorable sequence, Alex is sat in his
car outside a petrol station when he imagines Marine climbing in next to him.
She makes small talk as the snow drifts past the window, and for a moment
things are exactly like the way were before the accident. Then the shot changes
and we see that Alex is now alone in the car, staring into the distance as
Marine’s voice continues in his head. As he leans in to her imaginary touch, it
is clear how badly he wants to feel close to her again. The scene is a truly
moving depiction of love and memory, and it is one of the many moments that
give the film such an incredibly poignant atmosphere.

As Mélanie Laurent’s first
feature film, The Adopted is an outstanding achievement; it seems that
Laurent’s future as a director and writer is set to be just as successful as
her acting career has been so far.

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