Review by Jack Foley
MAX Mayer’s bittersweet romantic comedy drama Adam is a hit-and-miss indie offering that’s buoyed considerably by a strong central performance from Hugh Dancy.
Working from tricky subject matter, the film charms in places but feels awkward at others and isn’t helped by an over-ambitious screenplay that attempts to shoe-horn one too many plot-points in. The odd stereotypical character feels like a waste too.
Adam (Dancy) is a loner suffering from Asperger Syndrome who is left to fend for himself following the death of his father. When broken-hearted children’s writer and teacher Beth (Rose Byrne) moves into his apartment block, however, the two develop an unlikely relationship that could make or break both.
For Adam, Beth’s presence offers the opportunity to develop his confidence, find a new job and tap into more complex emotions than usual, while Beth stands to get her life back on track following a failed affair and subsequent writer’s block.
But with Beth’s father (Peter Gallagher) providing staunch opposition, as well as facing his own past demons in the form of a looming court case, the path to happiness is frought with obstacles.
Writer-director Mayer treats the Asperger’s element of the story with the sensitivity it deserves and, thankfully, doesn’t allow things to become too sentimental. He also invests proceedings with plenty of quirky and/or indie humour.
Dancy, meanwhile, copes well with the dual demands of an American accent and the limitations placed by his mental condition, emerging as a complex, difficult but ultimately likeable central character.
Byrne, for her part, offers a suitably engaging presence and someone worthy of Adam’s affections.
But Mayer doesn’t always reward his performers with consistent material. When keeping things intimate, the former playwrite maintains believability and generally engages.
When broadening the scope of the film, however, he frequently comes up short and hits some duff notes. Several of the larger comedy moments – such as Beth’s decision to take Adam to a fancy-dress restaurant, or a party for her friends – don’t ring true.
While the sub-plot featuring Peter Gallagher’s father and his past indiscretions also rings hollow and feels hopelessly contrived. Such moments annoy more than they should because they threaten to ruin the film’s otherwise smooth momentum.
That said, Adam remains seeing for Dancy’s affecting central performance and the opportunity it affords to develop a greater understanding of Asperger’s.
Running time: 101mins
UK DVD Release: February 15, 2010