Turning Michel Houellebecq's bleak novel into a film wasn't going to be easy. The story of two half-brothers blighted by absent fathers and a feckless hippy mother, Atomised is full of intellectual riffs on molecular biology, metaphysics and history but light on happy endings.
German director Oskar Roehler tries to capture Houellebecq's depressing picture of French society in moral meltdown, but just can't get the tone right. Black comedy becomes slapstick and the moments of genuine emotion turn to schmaltz, with Houellebecq's shocking vision getting lost en route. (When it comes to dressing up sex as intellectual discourse, the French are much better.)
Still, at least Roehler has scored with his leads, Moritz Bleibtreu bringing the right mix of rage and despair to swinger Bruno, while Christian Ulmen's Michel is a shrewd study in sexual repression.