Closing Night Gala / International premiere


  • Max Mayer /
  • USA /
  • 2009 /
  • 100 mins

Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison / Fiction / English

A love affair with a little difference.

Closing EIFF with a beguiling combination of warmth and intelligence, Adam is a delightfully sure-footed comedy drama from US director Max Mayer. The title character is a young New Yorker with Asperger's syndrome, a condition on the autism spectrum which entails a limited ability to empathise with others. His father recently dead, Adam (Hugh Dancy) is facing an uncertain future when he meets his new upstairs neighbour Beth (Rose Byrne). Reeling from a bad break-up and worried about impending legal action against her businessman dad (Peter Gallagher), Rose finds solace in the company of the gently reclusive Adam, and her friendly concern towards the young man gradually turns into something more intimate. Low on the intuitive emotional skills that come so naturally to most other romcom heroes, Adam must learn the rules of courtship as he and Rose begin tentatively dating. A fresh take on the romantic comedy, the film is a sympathetic and bracingly matter-of-fact depiction of living with Asperger's. Is Adam, whose existence has so far been governed by strict routine and loving support from his father, ready for the emotional demands of a new relationship? And how fully does Rose understand the challenges of dating someone like Adam? It’s a risk for both, and if the film celebrates the new experiences that Adam and Rose embark upon, it’s clear-eyed enough to know that it won’t be easy for either of them: like amateur astronomer Adam – who charms Rose with his home-made planetarium in one of the film’s lovely visual grace notes – the movie has its head tilted toward the stars, but its feet planted firmly on the ground. Unfurling with understated humour and resonant restraint, Adam is a film of delicate, offbeat charm that avoids sentimentality or mawkishness with deft assurance. At its centre are winning performances from its two leads. Australian actress Rose Byrne (28 Days Later) brings a tender charisma to the part of Rose; while British actor Hugh Dancy is utterly compelling as the shy, socially awkward Adam. A gem.

2009 Archive

Image from Adam

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  • #1 Leona Campbell / Sunday 28 June, 2009 / 08:52 GMT

    I really enjoyed this film. The central performance by Hugh Dancy is wonderful and the film is very touching and funny without heading into the realms of cheesy romance. All the actors involved give great performances, and watching Adam cope being thrust into this world on his own is an intriguing experience for the viewer. The film also avoids lecturing the audience on Asperger's and instead allows you to experience each aspect of Adam's life alongside Beth, which I personally enjoyed and found to be a nice touch.

    It's a really great way to spend a couple of hours and I'd highly recommend it.
  • #2 Mike Hall / Sunday 28 June, 2009 / 11:17 GMT

    For me, the best thing about this film was the ending, because it avoided any clichéd and formulaic reunion. I don’t know much about aspergers so can’t comment on the accuracy of the portrayal, but I came out feeling that I’d learnt something about the condition, and felt both touched and moved by Hugh Dancy’s depiction. The other lead, Rose Byrne, behaved convincingly as if she was in a relationship with Adam, and highlighted the old dilemma that to differing degrees, we all make our choices in this life in the knowledge that we can’t have it all. For Beth, she would have had the stability and security she craved in a relationship, but the lack of reciprocated empathy proved a bridge too far.

    I could see why the father-daughter sub-plot was integral to the story, from a ‘nobody’s perfect’ sense of comparison...although I found myself a little irritated by it, as it detracted from the main themes and took up too much air time. The film has all the ingredients of a commercial success, and I left the cinema thinking ‘tender but unremarkable’. 6/10.

    PS As a closing gala virgin, I was a little disappointed by the lack of any 'sense of occasion', in particular the missed opportunity for a Q&A session afterwards. It was good that the Director and Lead Actor made the effort to attend and introduce their work, and a shame that there wasn't the opportunity for them to say a bit more about their film once we'd all seen it.

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