Movie Reviews

‘Perfect Mothers’: Exploring the sexuality of older women

By Anjali RaguramanMovies - 13 November 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 11:47 AM

‘Perfect Mothers’: Exploring the sexuality of older women

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Rating: 4 / 5

Naomi Watts and Robin Wright star as two mothers, Lil and Roz respectively, who have passionate affairs with each other’s sons in this movie, which has also been called 'Two Mothers' and 'Adore' in other places.

An adaptation of a novel by Doris Lessing titled ‘The Grandmothers’, it is a story of two childhood friends, and their unconditional love for each other. Having been through everything from puberty, to childbirth, and raising their boys together, they develop an incredibly strong bond. So strong, that it weathers even the complicated and unconventional love story that unfolds between mothers and sons.

Once you get past your shock at the sensational and provocative subject matter, you realise there is a lot more than just sex and warped relationships. It is a rare attempt at navigating the sexuality of two (very attractive) older women, in a film industry that is obsessed with youth.  It’s riveting from start to finish.

Set in an Australian seaside town that is straight out of a postcard, the mothers and sons spend plenty of time at the beach. The boys surf, while the mothers bake in the sun. Roz and Lil are rather smugly pleased that they have two incredibly handsome young men as sons. Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frecheville), both Australian actors, are Adonis-like figures. At one point, Roz asks, “Did we do that?”, as if admiring a piece of artwork, as their sons rip through the waves on surfboards, looking chiselled and athletic.

James Frecheville (left) and Xavier Samuel play young men who become lovers to each other's mother.

This sets off a chain of events where the two young men take turns to sleep with each other's mother. 

At times, the story is so twisted, it makes you almost uncomfortable. There are plenty of sex scenes, but the sex is a symptom of what is going on, and not the focus.


On screen, Watts seems far too young to be playing mother to an 18-year-old boy. It hampers her from delivering a convincing performance, even though hers is the more emptional character. Wright is by far the star with her portrayal of the mother with a guarded demeanour. Her internal struggle and quiet moments speak volumes without her ever saying a word.

While Naomi Watts (right) gets more dramatic scenes, it is Robin Wright who shines even while holding back. 


Director Anne Fontaine (‘Coco Before Chanel’) does a character study of two women and their contradictions. She examines the way the mothers approach morality, their own battle with aging, as well as how to handle their own sexual needs.

The plot follows the foursome as they grow over the course of more than a decade, until the boys themselves become fathers. Yet, the relationships feel organic and not the least bit contrived.

The story ultimately celebrates the friendship between the two women. In most films, where two lead actresses are inevitably pitted against each other, it is refreshing to see such a nurturing, supportive relationship where they are able to forgive and love.

'Perfect Mothers' opens in cinemas 14 November 2013