6 November 2007 | film-critic
Is the adoption process really this dull?
A difficult film to review, "Adoption" is a human story about two females, their lives connecting together, and how a new friendship allows for deeper opportunities. Director Marta Meszaros brings us into the world of Kata, a hard working woman who wants nothing more than to have a child of her own. From the opening scene, through the course of the first thirty-minutes, I must admit I was captivated by what Meszaros was showing me. Her work initially seemed, and felt, like early Lars von Trier or Ang Lee. A poverty working woman desires more out of life, and while she cannot find it with her lover, a young uncommitted girl takes her further down the path than imaginable. At first, it was compelling. The drama between the characters was dedicated. Kata was sad, dull, and painfully hopeful as she tried to explain why she wanted the child (going through the entire physical process), but when random girls begin just showing up at her house one day the film began to turn into something completely different. It became a more obscure film, using bits of Fellini and Goddard to be the inspiration which can work, but when it is a dramatic change mid-film, it can frighten the more casual viewer. Even for me, this was difficult to watch because Kata transforms almost instantly before our eyes. She goes from sympathetic, to unsympathetic, back to sympathetic without any reason or cause. One of "Adoptions" major flaws is that Meszaros, while she has a great story in front of her, cannot seem to develop her central characters at all. Kata's motion, her reasons, her next steps are difficult to judge because we know very little about her. Her past, her likes, dislikes, her passions seem to be mixed in with her sense of hospitality. Films like "Adoption" suffer because it feels as if the audience has jumped into the middle of a story, instead of seeing it from the beginning.
As mentioned, the characters change from the beginning impressions until the end, giving us a reason to distrust them. The young girl Kata takes in is also random. Their moments together were wooden and plastic combined. If the cue cards were not sitting in front of them, would they have remembered their lines? The symbolism jumps from the screen, not in a good way, but one where studies can easily be done on the relationship between the two (i.e. is the mother reliving her youth trying to pursue a life she never had, is the troubled teen looking for a mom, are the two a better fit than Kata with a child?) These are all very valid questions, but they do not create a better film. Eliminate the long shots of characters just staring at each other, eliminate the shots of Kata at work, eliminate the painfully troublesome wedding (which went on for way too long), and you do not have a substantial enough film for one to enjoy. The point, "Adoption" carries no meat with the nearly broken bones Meszaros has set. The characters are not substance enough to live on, so we search elsewhere the scenery is bland go elsewhere. How about the music? While traditional, it wasn't powerful enough to continue the mood. The forced realism of the performances gave this film a cardboard feel with no integrity.
"Adoption" was supposed to be a human drama about a woman wanting to adopt a child. Somewhere along the 89 minutes, Meszaros dropped that idea and went with our main character developing a relationship with a random person. Without giving away the ending, the final frames make us feel that we have been duped, and the past thirty-minutes were nothing of value. The final scene of this film was laughable. Finally, we were getting to the point, but it was too late the film had already failed. While it was an award winner during its release in 1975, this slow-paced foreign film cannot stand on its two legs. The value over the years has dropped, giving us a very weak story with obvious character flaws. I watched it until the end anticipating a twist, or shock moment that would either get me excited about the focus of the director or makes me want to tell friends and family about this great feature. Alas, none of this happened. "Adoption" made me fall asleep twice due to the lack of consistency, dull characters, and extremely slow pacing. This is a film that could have been considered a short film when the frills were removed.
Overall, for this little film critic nothing worked. The characters started off with quick enjoyment, but just like every horse I bet on at the track, they lost speed and nearly didn't finish the race. We knew nothing about these guides, the ones that were to lead us through Hungary's adoption issues. Kata was a worker, the other a student that is it. Not enough for a feature film. If this was going to be a film about adoptions or about Kata's desire for a family, than it should have focused fully on that the final product, albeit brings questions from the academic side, doesn't equate to good cinema on the critics side. Pass on this one, there are better stories about adoption and family pride take "Tokyo Godfathers" there is a foreign film that wasn't afraid to take its characters to the next level.
Grade: * ½ out of *****