Ros and Lil are life-long best friends. They met as schoolgirls and have grown up on the coast of Australia. Now they are adults and their lives are still centred here on the stunning New South Wales coast. Lil (played by Naomi Watts) recently lost her husband and she is grieving deeply. Her teenage son, Ian (by Xavier Samuel) lives at the beach with her, so he is a welcome comfort. Ros (by Robin Wright) lives nearby and she’s married to Harold (by Ben Mendelsohn). Their son, Tom (by James Frecheville) is best mates with Ian and they’ve grown up here. Theirs is a very close extended family and they are all very happy in this idyllic location. Out of the blue, one day Harold decides to take his “job of a lifetime” in Sydney and the families prepare for their inevitable separation when Harold, Ros and Tom shortly relocate. Tom, now almost in his twenties, just can’t bring himself to leave the beachside lifestyle – Ros realises that she can’t either. In their shared desperation for a solution they each reach out to the other family – but in new ways. Ros finds a connection with young Ian, in a most passionate and emotional encounter. When Tom finds out by accident, in a childish pay-back he connects similarly with Lil. Trouble is … now they’ve started, none of them can stop. They all know it’s wrong, but their new bonds are passionate and deep. They must do what’s necessary and act to stop the relationships – but will the price be too high?
Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the stunning Australian coast. The cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne is wonderful and the area is clearly a paradise. However, apart from this, my opinion of the movie is rather uncharitable. I found the rest of the piece quite tedious and irritating. It’s not really the morality of the situation that gets to me, although it’s not ideal – it’s more the underlying principles by which these characters choose to live and the terrible movie production overall. The performances are all dreadful – Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn should know better – particularly Mendelsohn. His portrayal of Harold is totally wooden, superficial and adds little depth to the story. As Lil, Naomi Watts is okay – she actually won a “Best Actress” award for this role. She and Robin Wright as Ros have some difficult issues to deal with, but in my opinion they don’t present well. The teenage boys are driven by hormones, as expected, so they can be excused for not thinking with the brain inside their heads. However, I can’t forgive the two women for this behaviour – disappointingly, they both come off as selfish, self-indulgent and driven by physical need. Gary Sweet’s character, Saul, is supposed to be a bit of a hopeless misfit – so he does that well, but even he can’t save this movie. Other reviewers have raved over the whole movie, but not me, sorry.
The story is adapted from “The Grandmothers”, a short story by Doris Lessing.
Made in 2013. Directed by Anne Fontaine.