Adam (review)

Perhaps it’s a little bit of victory, in an odd way, that this too-earnest, underemotional drama so perfectly apes its protagonist in how it cannot quite connect with anyone outside itself. Adam (Hugh Dancy: The Jane Austen Book Club) is a 20something engineer in New York City who finds himself newly adrift after the death of his father, with whom he lived and with whom — we assume — he had his only meaningful human connection. You see, Adam suffers from Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism, though his Asperger’s seems on the more severe end of its own scale. (You probably know someone with Asperger’s, particularly if you know a lot of science fiction geeks, like I do: they often don’t understand body language or emotional cues, which can make being with them a little trying at times.) “I get kind of overloaded,” Adam explains to his new neighbor, Beth (Rose Bryne: Knowing), which makes him appear to shut down, and indeed, he’s a little robotic in his clumsy attempts to befriend her, and then, even more so later, when she overcomes her resistance to his oddness to see his very real, if unusual charms, and they embark on a tentative romance. I don’t mean that “robotic” as an indictment of Dancy’s performance, which is anything but — in fact, both he and Byrne are what make this a movie worth seeing, for their delicacy and tentativeness in coping with one another. The second feature film from writer/director Max Mayer, Adam is a tad heavyhanded in spots — one awkward moment descends into such movie-of-the-week-ness that I cringed at the inelegance of it. But as a drama, it’s never easy or simplistic or comforting: even a “happy ending” for these two would never be a happy ending. And as a romance, it strips away all fantasy: if a gal’s dream guy is someone who can read her mind and always knows what she wants and needs, Adam is as emphatically the opposite of that as a man can get. Adam makes no bones about that.

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