Thursday, August 30, 2007

YOUNG ADAM - irredeemably bleak and alienating

YOUNG ADAM is an earlier film by the writer-director of HALLAM FOE, David Mackenzie. The film attracted some controversy upon its initial release in 2003 because of the graphic sex scenes and a full frontal shot of Ewan Macgregor that brought down the wrath of the US censors. Apparently the US censors also have a problem with a man orally pleasuring a woman.

Behind all the hoopla we have a brutal drama about an enigmatic but slightly sinister young man called Joe whose past relationship with a woman called Cathie is called into question when her body is found in the canal where he is now working on a barge and sleeping with the barge-master's wife.

The subject-matter of the piece is similar to HALLAM FOE, insofar as it deals with a young man who feels he has no real place in society and examines his sexual relations with a number of different women with uncompromising honesty. YOUNG ADAM also shares the admirable unwillingness to explain too much, as well as rather grim production design and cinematography. David Mackenzie also elicits a captivating performance from Ewan Macgregor just as he did from Jamie Bell. But YOUNG ADAM also shares the same problems as HALLAM FOE. Some of the dialogue and sexual encounters seemed plained bizarre and I didn't always feel confident that the writer knew where he was taking his characters.

The peculiar strength and failure of YOUNG ADAM is its willingness to put a fundamentally cold, inscrutable and unsympathetic character and the heart of the story. It's a bold move. But as the movie unfolded I just felt alienated.

YOUNG ADAM played Cannes and Toronto 2003 and opened around the world that year, although in a heavily censored version in the US. It is now available on DVD.

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