Belgian auteur Fabrice du Welz’s “Adoration” looks at deep and obsessive love that manifests in some terrifying behavior. Two teenagers who are somewhat innocent react differently to the adult world that doesn’t seem to want them: one does so with care and shyness, the other with rage and blood.
Paul (Thomas Gioria) is a shy and navigating the world mostly alone. He lives with his mother on the ground of the psychiatric hospital where she works, and spends much of his time with the birds that he cares for. One day, he spies Gloria (Fantine Harduin) as she screams and runs from her nurses. He learns that she has some serious problems and is told that he must stay away from her.
He, however, did what young teenaged boy do when told to stay away from a pretty teenaged girl. When we first meet Paul, he is caring for an injured bird and he turns that same gentleness and tenacity to Gloria, who tells him she is being kept against her will, so her uncle can have access to her large fortune. Paul and Gloria’s first steps come to a deadly climax, and they go on the run becomes a journey.
We follow the two through forests and down rivers and their love for each other blooms. The film explores that love as they slowly explore their feelings. They explore based upon what they have heard other people do and are the most loving when they stop being children.
However, the exploration becomes rocky, inconsistent and even dangerous. It seems that perhaps Gloria is correct about her uncle, but her instability becomes clear after she is off of her medication. She suddenly turns on Paul, injuring him (but is quickly apologetic) but Paul is too young to know how to deal with it. They spend a few days with a kind couple, who seem to reflect what Paul and Gloria could become, but Gloria turns on them as well, violently. Paul soon realizes that he is in over his head, but he is also in love, and sometimes the only way to deal with a mad person, is to become the same.
The actors turn in gorgeous performances. They find just the right balance between the innocence of childhood and the pressures of adulthood— the time when one has knowledge but not maturity. We feel the strength of their attachment and fear for them at the same time.
When off her meds. Gloria has a hypnotic dream sequence where we see the terrifying depths of her illness. Paul awakens to realize that this summer romance is doomed by her increasing madness and his pledge of eternal love cannot be kept without his being destroyed. When Gloria reveals her evil side, mistrusting everyone and using Paul by exploiting his gentleness, it is heartbreaking.
Warped obsession takes over Paul’s innocent life. He is swept up by Gloria’s vulnerability. He is entranced and determined to get to know her despite warnings from the medical staff at his mother’s workplace. He sees Gloria’s desperate bid to escape from the institution as an exciting game. Once on the run with her, he becomes intoxicated by her manipulative personality and feral beauty, and is determined to serve her needs and wishes even when Gloria leads him into emotionally and physically dangerous territory. Confused by his adolescent feelings, he is more than eager to follow Gloria’s misguided instincts. We see that this “amour fou” will damage him forever.
While the film is a fantasy, it becomes a convincing nightmare as the teens continue their journey into darkness. In her delusional madness, Gloria sees everybody as a threat and Paul is is blinded by the power of his feelings for Gloria who merely uses him to serve her needs.