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The Independent Critic

Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Mark Linn-Baker, Frankie Faison
Max Mayer
Rated PG-13
99 Mins.
Fox Searchlight

 "Adam" Review 
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In his book "Adam: God's Beloved," a book written by the acclaimed Christian writer Henri Nouwen only months before his death in 1996, Nouwen writes about his friendship with Adam, a profoundly disabled man he knew at the L'Arche DayBreak Community in Canada. Despite Adam's inability to speak and a body that was ravaged by seizures, Nouwen shares intimately about Adam's influence on his own faith and how this very special friendship empowered him with an even greater understanding of the Gospel.

The upcoming Fox Searchlight film "Adam" starts off similarly, with a monologue by the character Beth (Rose Byrne) in which she shares of growing up with the story of "The Little Prince" and always picturing herself as the Prince himself. When she meets Adam (Hugh Dancy), her rather different downstairs neighbor, she tells us that she finally realizes that she has spent her life being the pilot.

Our movie Adam isn't profoundly disabled and he is certainly able to speak- he just doesn't always know what to say. Adam has Asperger's Syndrome and, despite appearing to be normal and certainly intelligent in many ways, he is a socially awkward and frequently inappropriate young man who, nevertheless, manages to develop a very real human connection with his upstairs neighbor.

Before I continue, I have a confession.

While I try my best to not become a part of my reviews, there are those occasional films for which it is impossible to separate myself from my critical analysis of the film.

This does not mean I cannot objectively review the film, rather it means that this critical analysis inevitably includes the ways in which the film has touched the very essence of who I am.

"Adam" is such a film.

To this day, I have never been able to forget the words spoken during the break-up of my last engagement. While my ex-fiancee' and I are now friends, the words are seared into my brain and have undoubtedly impacted the way I relate to this very day. My fiancee' and I had just attended my employer's Christmas party and were returning to my home. The drive home was uncomfortably tense, and I could tell that something was bothering her. When we finally arrived at my apartment, the break-up occurred.

It was quick. It was blunt. It was painful.

She was right.

I AM socially awkward.  As the Counting Crows once sang, I "have trouble acting normal when I'm nervous."

But I digress.

The truth is I've always worked really hard to overcome these social deficiencies and, yet, ever so often they surface in what feels like 3-D. This night was one of those occasions.

This dilemma, of weaving one's way through what "normal" can look like in the context of daily life, is at the very core of this remarkably insightful and entertaining film. Yet, it's also important to realize that "Adam" isn't ABOUT Beth having a relationship with a man with Asperger's Syndrome. It's about two people who, against rather enormous odds, find a very real connection and how they try to deal with their obstacles in ways that are honest, real, funny and heartfelt.

In other words, "Adam" is a love story first and Asperger's Syndrome is part of the story.

As someone who has picked on Hugh Dancy for the vast majority of his Hollywood career, I found myself rather in awe of Dancy's relaxed, earnest and winning performance including his finally having mastered control of his British accent when playing American characters. Among the many films that Hollywood has tried to make a Hugh Dancy break-out role, this may very well be the one that makes Hollywood truly notice Dancy.

While Rose Byrne has never impressed me as a particularly strong actress, she has a nice, comfortable chemistry with Dancy and their scenes together have a naturalness that makes this coupling believable. A sub-plot involving Beth's father (Peter Gallagher) and mother (Amy Irving) feels unnecessary, though it's almost worth it to see Irving on the big screen again in fine form.

It's easy to understand why Fox Searchlight was interested in this light, quirky little love story with a good heart and gentle spirit. While "Adam" isn't a mind-blowing cinematic experience, neither does it pander to maudlin temptations nor one-note characterizations.

The ending, happy in a realistic sort of way, was said to be re-shot following the film's Sundance Film Festival premiere and this ending feels right without becoming TOO Hollywood. Reportedly filmed on a budget under $1 million, "Adam" is currently on the film festival circuit before its expected arthouse release in Fall 2009 with Fox Searchlight.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic