The Movie Waffler New Release Review - ADOPTING AUDREY | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - ADOPTING AUDREY

Adopting Audrey review
A directionless woman is adopted by an equally dysfunctional family.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Michael Cahill

Starring: Jena Malone, Robert Hunger-Bühler, Emily Kuroda

Adopting Audrey poster

According to Nesta, a heavily funded "innovation agency for social good" based in the UK, loneliness affects a quarter of the population. A malady so persistent that five years ago the government appointed a Minister for Loneliness and implicated various strategies for tackling social seclusion. Loneliness is an actuality. Cards on the table, the spectre of aloneness both fascinates and terrifies me. Just as I think that anyone is only ever one or two bad lucks away from being homeless, so is anyone just a couple of people from being completely on their own. Part of being an adult is the sober realisation of how difficult it is to make friends, to forge social connections: frankly, it is easier to manifest casual sex with a stranger. We gather likes and follows on social media, but how often does that translate into friendship? How does an adult, who more than likely works in a place with people of varying backgrounds and ages and priorities engender a platonic relationship with others? It happens, but it is a phenomenon which doesn't come as easy as when you're young and hanging out is just a way of life. When the social buoyancy of youth has dissipated, adult life becomes a matter of not slipping through the cracks.

Adopting Audrey review

Writer/director Michael Cahill's Adopting Audrey opens with a title card informing us that a "surprising amount" of the ensuing narrative is true. The cutesy informality (yes, it's one of those films) refers to the real-life case of Jenna McFarlane, a fortysomething American woman who fell out with her biological family and put herself up for adoption, and was duly taken in by a family she chose out of 90 (!) replies to her personal ad. Why not, eh? So much of our psyche depends on pretending everything is ok, and that we're just fine when we might not be. McFarlane took the necessary steps to fix her loneliness, and, in her transparency, became a figurehead for a social movement (in absolute floods of tears reading about it now: "A family, for me, is a place where you know you're at home...You know you're accepted and you're loved." Too much!).

Adopting Audrey review

In Adopting Audrey the great Jena Malone plays a version of McFarlane. Audrey is estranged from her family, and works in a call centre, isolated among tens of other workers in their sad little cubicles. She's not great at her job, probably because she tries to strike up off-topic conversations with her anonymous clients (100% exactly what I would be like in her position) and is duly sacked for her efforts. Audrey's electricity is subsequently cut off, while interaction with her boyfriend is moribund and characterised by rote sex (I would imagine being in an unfulfilling relationship is just the absolute loneliest). "Don’t you just feel like you just wanna... leave?" she questions a non-plussed potential customer. One day, probably spurred on by the hot mess of her life, she makes good on her query and does a McFarlane, hooking up with an across state family headed by a cantankerous European patriarch, Otto (Robert Hunger-Bühler).

Adopting Audrey review

Obligatory jokes about who wouldn't want Jena Malone in their lives (in Adopting Audrey her hair is short bottle blond, and slightly shaggier then usual - she looks so, so cool) aside, the adoptive family are a heart-warming bunch. A mixed-race couple who have lost their respective spouses, and who both have grown up children of their own along with grandkids. There's still room for this strange, loveable woman though. The scene is set for a gentle comedy drama about learning and growing and loving, and, on those counts, Adopting Audrey delivers. It's a nice film. But that's really all it is. In a recognisably indie la mode of pastel colours and plucked string soundtracks, Adopting Audrey relies on very conventional semi-sit com trajectories. Of course, Otto is emotionally stunted, and, naturally, he and wife Sunny (Emily Kuroda) are fulfilled by Audrey in a manner that is suitably reciprocal. In a particularly on the nose conceit Otto and Audrey build a tree house together. There is some dramatic conflict via Sunny and Otto's children, but in the main Adopting Audrey wafts along benignly. The dark implications which are alluded to in the film's opening, concerning loneliness and a wider social malaise, are pointedly averted. The performances are crafted and convincing, yet ultimately the film's intriguingly human premise is left unexplored. Does forcing a bond between strangers work? What are the compromises? Is Audrey's disillusionment due to more than a lack of family? Such potentially intriguing and gritty issues are smoothed over by the low-key protocols of this polite drama. At 90 minutes Adopting Audrey makes for a pleasant watch but does begin to outstay its welcome.

Adopting Audrey is on UK/ROI VOD from March 13th.

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