ADORE "I don't like sand. It's coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere."

THE TWO FILMS I have watched by the Luxembourg-born and France-based director Anne Fontaine—2008's The Girl from Monaco and 2011's My Worst Nightmare—did not in any way prepare me for the beauty and enchantments of her first English-language (Aussie English, that is) movie, Adore. It's not that her earlier films were bad, but they certainly were not cinematic. (To explain what I mean by cinematic: It is to synthesize the primary resources—music, image, drama, writing, narrative—of moviemaking into a consistent mood, tone, and movement. There are certainly other meanings out there, but this is all that I mean.)

With Adore, two middle-aged mothers, Roz and Lil (Robin Wright and Naomi Watts, respectively), who are old friends and neighbors in a seaside paradise located not far from Sydney, fall in love with each other's sons. The sons, Ian and Tom (Xavier Samuel and James Frecheville), fall in love with each other's mothers. The only problem that this erotic crisscrossing faces is time: The mothers fear that the sons will eventually see them as old, lose interest in them, and naturally desire younger women. This realism is felt more strongly by Roz than Lil, with Roz eventually forcing the quartet's return to normal society. Sexual normalcy, however, is not the solution. (The movie is based on a short story, "The Grandmothers," by Doris Lessing.)

The music for this wonderfully twisted story is gravid but spare, the acting is expertly measured, the characters carefully defined, and all of the images of the sea—the town by the sea, the swimming in the sea, the sea in the windows of cars and homes—are dominated by the eternal and radiant image of the four lovers on a wooden floating dock.