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Adrift

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Adrift film still
Released on Friday, Nov 19 2010

Life's a beach for a beautiful Brazilian teenager as she grapples with drooling boys and her father's infidelity. Looking out to sea with a faraway look in her eyes, talented newcomer Laura Neiva pulls you deep into her world, which is dominated by her love-hate relationship with dad, played with typically cool dynamism by Frenchman Vincent Cassel (in Portuguese). No, it's not one of those artsy foreign films that feel more like a cheap excuse for underage nudity. This is a classy, tender and delicately drawn portrait of a girl who seems to have the world at her feet.

Filipa is one of three kids in a picture perfect family who are staying at a beach house while dad tries to finish his latest novel. Mathias is a renowned author, but tension bubbles close to the surface when he is offered a lucrative deal to adapt one of his books for TV. He doubts the artistic credentials of the interested party, but mum Clarice (Debora Bloch) insists they need the cash. Filipa picks up on the casual sniping, but initially seems more concerned with swimming and hanging out with her mates. That is until she finds photos of dad with a glamorous other woman.

It's a moment that rudely interrupts Filipa's passage into maturity. She is less sure how to handle the moony (and slightly grabby) advances of local boy Arthur (Daniel Passi); at first seeming curious, then gradually more interested, then cold and irritable after seeing dad 'in the act' with mistress Angela (Camilla Belle). But Filipa is as fascinated by the other woman as she is angered, even trying to dress like her in one scene. Clearly, Filipa also has the makings of a femme fatale, but watching her try to wield this newfound power is like watching someone with a provisional licence behind the wheel of a Ferrari - tense and sometimes wince-inducing.

In the boy's version of the story, Arthur would be the victim of the piece - having his hopes constantly raised and dashed by Filipa - but the surprising skill of writer-director Heitor Dhalia (who made an award-winning splash with Drained in 2006) is in seeing through the eyes of this 14-year-old girl. She isn't so much fickle as confused, and rather than have her confidence bolstered by so much attention, she appears to flounder, losing herself in other people's perceptions of her. Her close bond with dad is her only anchor and a feeling of danger grows as that is gradually eroded. The resulting push-and-pull is beautifully played by both actors.

More family secrets are unveiled before the end, but the more devastating of these feels slightly out of kilter with what's come before. It's as if, after trying to understand what goes on inside a pretty girl's head, Dhalia then slaps her down for what she might become. That aside, he shows great taste and restraint when it comes to Filipa's last act of rebellion, emphasising her emotional journey rather than boiling things down to simple, sexual politics. He manages to hang on to some youthful optimism as well, even if most of the sunshine in this film is down to the gorgeous cinematography. In all senses though, it is dreamy and seductive.


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