An eerily smoldering performance by Charlotte Gainsbourg as a sexually awakening teenager should be enough to set The Cement Garden apart from the rest. Instead, it's the story that distinguishes this adaptation of Ian McEwan's beautiful but disturbing novel. Four children are orphaned when their sick mother dies in her sleep; afraid they may all be "put into care," they encase her in cement, hide her in the basement, and try to function as a normal family unit. Gainsbourg becomes the caretaker, and while struggling for security develops an increasingly flirtatious relationship with her older brother, masterfully played by Andrew Robertson. As he grows out of his sullen-youth phase and begins to accept a man's responsibility, their attraction becomes increasingly sexual. The Cement Garden is simultaneously sensual and voluptuously repellent—it takes an unusual and thoughtful look at decaying family relationships, to be sure, but the incest angle isn't any less creepy because it's consensual. As well done as it is, as exploratory as it tries to be, it ultimately has the emotional impact of a Party of Five episode in which all the orphans start screwing.

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