The local folk in the idyllic Australian beach town where Roz (Robin Wright) and Lil (Naomi Watts) grew up best friends -- a place wrapped in sea mist, where the sand has the same coloration as sun-glazed Caucasian flesh -- sort of assume that the two have always had a thing for each other. Maybe they do. But they can't possibly know the other truth, that each woman is sleeping with the other's son.
The film has an impressive pedigree -- screenplay by Christopher Hampton, from a novel by Nobel laureate Doris Lessing -- but still feels like something of a bodice-ripper, if people bothered to wear that much clothing. Everyone is extremely beautiful, and genetically and libidinously logical -- why wouldn't two women as gorgeous as Lil and Roz have sons as gorgeous as Tom (James Frecheville) and Ian (Xavier Samuel), and why wouldn't they all be chasing after each other awkwardly, because no one has a moral leg to stand on?
Director Anne Fontaine, who has been churning up some seriously frothy French fare lo these many years ("The Girl From Monaco" is a particularly cloying example; "Coco Before Chanel" is better), doesn't really seem interested in the intellectual angle of the Lessing book (four short novels titled "The Grandmothers"), but rather the intoxication of a four-way collision that will ultimately lead to disaster. While it lasts, however, it's very pretty.
PLOT Aussie mothers seek sons for romantic encounters, walks on the beach.
RATING R (sexual content, adult content, language)
CAST Naomi Watts, Robin Wright, Xavier Samuel, James Frecheville
BOTTOM LINE Too gauzy and delirious for so sudsy a soap opera.