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Adam
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Adam – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Adam (Dancy) is a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome – at the high-functioning end of the autistic spectrum.
He’s talented at electronics, as passionate as he is knowledgeable about astronomy and completely dependent on his father to lead him through a daily routine that involves wearing the same clothes and eating the same food.
So, when – at the start of the film – his father dies, we wonder whether he’ll be able to cope on his own.
With his job and one friend the only constant factors in his life, he has a lot to learn fast.
Bumping into his cute new neighbour Beth (Byrne) in the launderette is a baptism of fire. Taking everything she says literally, he leaves her thinking he’s at worst deliberately annoying and at best a little odd, but before long, she realises he’s autistic.
Beth is clearly better able to adapt to new experiences than he is, so she moves much further and faster than him, as a warm friendship – and more – begins to develop between them – but there are times when even the most patient of people can’t cope with the immense strain such a relationship puts on you.
Adam’s inability to comprehend problems going on with her own family prove to be the stick that breaks the camel’s back, as fate tears the unlikely lovers apart.
Can love overcome this chronic debilitating condition and its regrettable consequences? Can someone with Asperger’s even experience love in the first place?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

For most people, the closest they will have got to someone with autism is watching Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman’s Raymond is further down the spectrum than Hugh Dancy’s eponymous character, making Adam’s predicament all the more frustrating. Raymond just accepted that he couldn’t really cope alone, but Adam is aware enough that he has problems but not aware enough to overcome them easily.
The latest British actor to lead an American cast delivers a tremendously sensitive performance that feels authentic – how true it is, it’s hard to know without knowing someone with his exact condition intimately, but as a viewer, you genuinely feel that you can understand what it must be like to be him or anyone he encounters.
Rose Byrne too delivers a warm, sympathetic and subtle performance – shaking off a reputation for an acting style that, at times, has lacked a little feeling.
The writer-director Max Mayer charts a natural journey for the pair and thankfully, keeps it real – if, regrettably negative – by ending it the way it feels like it should end, rather than the way less brave film-makers might take it.
But he concentrates rather too much on sub-plots involving Beth’s father (Gallagher), taking the storyline further away from the relationship at the core. Filling out supporting characters at the expense of growing the protagonists fails to lift a story that is already rather inconsequential for a feature film. It would perhaps have been more comfortable and effective as a TV drama.
The film has heart – but lacks emotion – but this is perhaps an inevitable consequence of the bravery of centring a film on a character who can’t empathise with anyone else – and with whom it’s hard for us to empathise.
By contrast, Rain Man worked because that was a film about Tom Cruise’s character and how he adapted to finding that he had a brother.
Adam is a film about Adam, which immediately distances the audience from the character it’s being asked to identify with from the first shot.

opens nationwide 7th August 2009

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