"Adam" DVD, Blu-ray Review (2010)

2/05/2010 Posted by Admin

DVD, Blu-ray Review


Directed by Max Mayer, Written by Mayer, 99 minutes, Rated PG-13

By our guest blogger, Rob Stammitti

I admire writer and director Max Mayer for having the courage to tackle a film whose main character has a developmental disorder. Things can go terribly wrong with such subject matter--often such characters just end up being caricatures or parodies. With "Adam," Mayer and lead actor Hugh Dancy have taken a big step forward with such subject matter, and in spite of some occasionally big narrative problems, I'm not sure I've seen such an even-handed and thoughtful depiction of a mental disorder in ages.

The film follows Adam (Dancy), an electrical engineer who has Asperger's syndrome. The syndrome is a light form of autism--social interaction is difficult due to the person's inability to understand basic nonverbal communication (flirting, joking, impatience) nor can they comprehend things like sarcasm. They also have a hard time empathizing with people. They basically live in their own world inside their head--sufferers often develop deep singular interests that they become fascinated with.

So, Adam has a hard time when his new neighbor, Beth (Rose Byrne), tries to interact with him. Beth doesn't understand why Adam can't comprehend the signs that she's interested in him, but when she learns of his disability, the two form a strong bond that turns out to be what both of them deeply needed.

What Dancy does with his character is unbelievable. He portrays Adam with a shocking subtlety, capturing what appears to be a harsh, emotionless exterior while maintaining strong emotion underneath. He never allows the character to slip into mockery. Rose Byrne is similarly great, understanding but overwhelmed, and she always feels real. Her humanity always has been one of Byrne's better traits as an actress.

Some problems tend to arise, however, less with the characters themselves and more with the story they've been given. The conflicts both characters feel toward one another get extremely repetitive, and there's an entire side-plot involving Byrne's father (played by Peter Gallagher) that felt completely unnecessary and seemed to just take away from the rest of the film. Things like this stretch the film pretty thin--it could've done without most of the last act, for one.

That said, the actual way Mayer develops Adam is pretty wonderful. He's never patronizing over sympathetic beyond reason--he portrays the character as he is. Confusing, flawed, occasionally cold, but there's an element of his view of the world that we all see sometimes. The occasional disconnect we all feel with the world around us is made all the more palpable with Adam, and even with Beth. Mayer shows us that Adam and Beth, outside of technicalities, may not be so different. Maybe none of us are.

As someone who has actually known someone with Asperger's, I can't appreciate enough how maturely the topic is explored. It's not something to be mocked or gawked at, and Mayer understands this. That's a rarity in films such as this. So, even though I may find flaws in some of the writing, there is plenty of good to be found in the sweet performances and solid depiction of the disorder. And I have to give Mayer even more credit for not ending the film how I expected.

Grade: C+

View the movie trailer for "Adam" below. What are you thoughts of the film?

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