Writer and Director: M.Cahill
A fascinating story, based on real-life events, Adopting Audrey looks at the importance of family, both inherited and self-made.
Audrey (played by Jena Malone) is a young American woman. She works (unhappily) in a call centre, and at home, she scrolls through endless videos. Puppies cavorting; brief hits of serotonin to get her through the day. When her boss fires her, she manages to hang onto her apartment, but the power is cut off. She sits in the dark, still scrolling, when she finds an advert for ‘adult adoption’. Audrey, with little left to lose, sets up a few interviews. Most are a bust: one creepy man asks to be her Daddy. Eventually, she comes across a video from Sunny (Emily Kuroda).
Audrey visits Sunny at home, and is immediately confronted by her partner, Otto (Robert Hunger-Buhler). He is a former NASA engineer, and his prickly demeanour throws her. Otto may be fiercely intelligent, but his relationship with his adult children, John and Gretchen, is fractured. Audrey is confused about how she can help. But as she begins to watch more practical how-to videos, she realises that the unfinished tree-house in Otto’s garden could be something they take on together.
Directed and written by M.Cahill, the film’s simple storyline means that Adopting Audrey is dependent on its characterisation. When watching this film, it’s clear that Cahill has fallen in love with the Audrey-Otto dynamic. Cahill has a great deal of fun with the extremities of Otto’s character: John’s story about how Otto has done a time and motion study on fishing is a revealing anecdote. But the children’s resentment isn’t given enough space; it leaves the film feeling uneven. In the development of Sunny – who we initially expect to be at the centre of the drama – her frustration with Otto is drawn in broad strokes, but their complicated partnership is left on the sidelines.
Where this film finds its groove is in the exploration of rootedness and connection. As Audrey rebuilds Otto’s tree-house, completing a long-delayed project, it allows him to put other pieces of his life back together. He acknowledges doubts – or gaps – as he calls them. A space where regret lives. Audrey and Otto help each other with their respective weak points: she advises him when trying to talk to his daughter, to “not teach her anything”, just listen. In return, Otto is a stabilising presence that Audrey initially resists, but realises she has been missing since childhood. Her inability to stay put is examined, her notion that “home can be anywhere”, is put to the test.
The strength of Cahill’s story is embedded within the quieter points of the film. The outline of the narrative is delicate, but there is a depth to the story-telling that acknowledges how human relationships develop. Progress is made, not in big dramatic moments, but in the smaller revelations. There is real quality here, but in the uneven treatment of its characters, Adopting Audrey never quite lives up to its full potential.
AdoptingAudreywill be available on Digital Download from 14th March.