Young Adam (UK/France; 93 min.)


directed by: David MacKenzie
starring: Ewan MacGregor; Tilda Swinton; Peter Mullan
Young Adam
 
Chris says: "YOUNG ADAM features Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton having lots of steamy, hot sex in the repressed 1950s. It's not a skeezy film, nor a really pleasurable one. At least no one pays too dearly for their sins; Ewan's just left with lots of guilt. Not really sure what the director was aiming for with this artfully told but generally boring tale. Anyway, the cinematography was almost as pretty to look at as McGregor."
 
Michael says: "Despite the horrible preview and lukewarm reviews we decided to check out YOUNG ADAM when the Monday night screening of SUPER SIZE ME was sold out to a single group. You'd think a film starring Ewan MacGregor and Tilda Swinton would be a no-brainer, but I wasn't very enthusastic about it. Surprise, surprise, I ended up enjoying YOUNG ADAM, as did co-viewer Esme. Unfortunately, Bob and Scot were less than thrilled.

"YOUNG ADAM is about frustrated writer/drifter/lothario Joe (MacGregor) who is working on a coal barge in Scotland. The barge is owned by the fiercely practical Ella (Swinton) and run by Ella's husband Les (Peter Mullan). In the opening scene, Joe and Les discover a woman's body floating in the river in nothing but her petticoat. They drag the body ashore and call an ambulance. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Les is curious about the outcome of the investigation, and while Joe is outwardly unconcerned, he secretly follows the case as well.

"Meanwhile, Joe and Elle develop a powerfully sexual attraction that manifests itself in furtive sexual relations whenever Les is not around. We also learn in flashback, that Joe had been involved with a young woman named Cathy (LOVELY AND AMAZING'S Emily Mortimer) who supported him while he tried to write. Their relationship runs its course and they part sadly but amicably, but when they meet up by chance on the street months later things do not end as well.

"YOUNG ADAM is wonderfully shot in greys and other muted tones, with haunting images of the barge moving slowly throgh a pea-soup fog, or through narrow tunnels. Atmospheric and bleak, YOUNG ADAM pulls you along on Joe's journey as he struggles with his conscience. Ella is a sadly sympathetic character in a passionless marriage, a product of a life of hard work, and practical to the point of sacrificing her happiness. The one time she smiles is a heartbreaking scene where she is taking care of her widowed sister, unknowingly (or perhaps not) about to be betrayed.

"The film is played out slowly, and some may find the characters unsympathetic, but I was strangely drawn into the story, possibly due to Swinton's smart performance. MacGregor does a good job too, exposing her character's flaws, even while you see that he is struggling to do the right thing. We were confused by the movie's title, and one review suggests it refers to the Biblical Adam (which we surmised), 'still young but
post-Garden of Eden, tossed into a cheerless world and doomed to an endless exile.'

"Not for everyone, but I say 3 1/2 cats"

 
Bruce says: "YOUNG ADAM is an intriguing film which unfortunately is not fully realized. As the film opens Joe Taylor (Ewan McGregor) is trying to fish a corpse out of the water. He enlists the help of Les Gault (Peter Mullan) his employer. Shortly after that incident, Joe begins having an affair with Les’ wife Ella. The three of them live in tight quarters on a barge which is in business to haul bulky cargo up and down the river.

"The viewer is led to believe that Joe has a crush on Ella. As the film progresses it is clear his behavior is patterned; he is a womanizer and opportunist. Flashbacks to a time before the opening scene establish that Joe at one time had lived in Glasgow with the woman who became the corpse. In those days Joe was an aspiring writer.

"Les becomes a witness in the drowning incident. Joe saves the life of the Gaults’ son when he falls into a canal. Les begins drinking more and more. Ella becomes more reliant on Joe. Finally, Les and Ella split and Joe becomes master of the vessel. When Ella invites a recently widowed friend over for comfort, Joe makes sure it is of the physical kind. Joe cannot sustain a relationship very long; the intimacy always closes in and suffocates him.

"Men like Joe have no boundaries; they live in a world without moral guidelines. Joe is not an evil man, simply a self-serving one who makes up the rules as he goes along. As a character study the film partially succeeds. McGregor does a fantastic job with what he has to work with but the script gets in the way of his efforts. Tilda Swinton, a marvelously consistent performer, is the woman who abhors the thought of adultery one minute and fully embraces it the next. She is a woman who thinks she needs a man not stopping to realize she owns and runs her own business.

"YOUNG ADAM is thoughtfully filmed. The Scottish countryside is lush and beautiful. Director Mackenzie knows how to frame his scenes and also is very good at creating a feeling of what working life on Scotland waterways must be like. It seems as though Mackenzie misplaced about twenty minutes of film that were really needed to complete Joe’s story. Much to like, just not enough of it. 3.5 cats"