Director Fabrice du Welz concludes his Ardennes based trilogy, following Calvaire and Alleluia, with a nightmarish fairy-tale that recalls the striking rural magnificence of Terrence Malick’s Badlands. After the claustrophobic menace and quite frankly bleak backdrops of the aforementioned films, Adoration comes as something of a glorious surprise with the two young lovers on the lam at the centre of the story drenched in sunshine and sweetness. That is until things turn sour of course.
The girl next door is Gloria (Fantine Harduin) who lives in the psychiatric hospital where Paul’s (Thomas Gioria) mother works. Paul feels great empathy on first meeting the troubled Gloria who is suffering from mental health issues, though her estimation of things is that she is being held there against her will, a conspiracy by her uncle (Laurent Lucas who appears in all 3 films) to keep her under lock and key. Like Rapunzel in the tower she longs to be set free, and after a violent incident Paul comes to her rescue. They hit the road, frolicking in misty woods, travelling through menacing tunnels and waterways and foraging on fruit.
Du Welz uses traditional fairy-tale imagery to weave together another upsetting story about love gone wrong and it is intermittently effective. Dressing Gloria in red and Paul in blue and using creepy childlike lullaby chants he sets an enchanting scene for the adolescence innocence of first love to be ripped to shreds and thrown into a fiery pit of despair. Paul may be dazzled by Gloria but his decision to see her through rose tinted spectacles may prove to be the end of him.
The two young leads convey the yin and yang dynamic of their characters with mesmerising turns. The golden-haired Gioria’s gentle performance complements Harduin’s intensity as she switches between inquisitively passionate and increasingly anxious. However, as Adoration progresses it falls into cliched territory using her affliction to further the narrative in an icky way. As the young travellers continue on a destructive path their fairy-tale romance falls apart, as does the plot.