Would you drive an hour to see a particular film you are interested in on the big screen? I did. A little more than a week ago I drove from the small city where I live to a bigger city to see the movie Adam.
It's a romantic comedy about a man with Asperger Syndrome (Hugh Dancy) who has a relationship with a neighbor, Beth Buchwald, (Rose Byrne) who is not on the spectrum. Adam was released by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which specializes in Indie and British Films. The film was not widely distributed, which explains the necessity of my hour-long trek.
Was the film worth the trip? Yes. My female chic flick buddy and I both liked the film. It had enough strengths to make the drive worthwhile. Dancy, who apparently didn't know the film was a "rom-com" when he accepted the part, gave a great performance as Adam Raki.
What I liked about Dancy's depiction of Adam is that I felt that I saw the character as a person first and Adam's disorder, Asperger Syndrome (AS) second. Of course that might of had as much to do with the script by writer and director Max Mayer as it did with the acting. In an interview (as seen here), Dancy said he liked the fact that AS wasn't mentioned or even hinted at immediately in the script. I liked that fact too. Viewers were given a chance to know Adam as an individual before the label was applied.
Another big strength of the film was the soundtrack. It had a lot of smooth, inspiring songs that were gentle on the ears. In other words the soundtrack was sensory friendly, which is nice for viewers on the autism spectrum who may have sensitive hearing.
The film's biggest weakness is its ending. While I liked the fact that it wasn't a typical Hollywood ending (again, this is an indie film), I wasn't sure I believed it. I won't reveal everything, but I will say the character made a huge transformation (that we didn't really get to see) in the span of a year. All viewers are able to witness is what happened that might have inspired a humongous change in Adam.
In a year's time and in what seems like one impossible, gigantic leap, Adam goes from being a person who has always been dependant on someone else (the character we see for most of the film) to someone who has adapted to life with AS and is living as an independent, successful adult. Don't get me wrong. I know adults with AS who have adapted and are successful. What I'm saying is that I think I only would have believed in Adam's transformation if I would have been actually able to see the progress as it happened bit by bit.
All the things I saw him struggle with like being successful on the job or correctly reading social cues just seemed to disappear as if by magic. A few characters in the film, mainly Beth's dad, even saw Adam as childlike (an aspect viewers in the autism community may become uncomfortable with). At the end of the film, it is apparent that all the characters around him respect and accept Adam as an adult who has adapted. Is it possible for someone to go from the developmental age of say nine or ten to the developmental age of nearly 30 in a year? I'm not so sure about that.
A nit-picky point was that I was disappointed in Beth's character. Rose Byrne aptly portrayed her, but I was expecting a character that was a little bit quirky. The tagline said "a story about two strangers. One a little stranger than the other." I guess I incorrectly inferred that Beth would at least be a little bit odd.
Instead Beth turned out to be a teacher and aspiring writer who didn't seem the slightest bit quirky. Oh well. There already is a romantic movie about Asperger Syndrome with two quirky characters. The title is Mozart and the Whale. I'm thinking the movie Adam should have been called Einstein and The Miracle Worker instead.
Extra Notes: Although I ended the review on a slightly snarky note, I really did like Adam despite the flaws. I think the film is worth viewing. In addition, I'd like to point out that Adam won the Alfred P. Sloan Prize for "an outstanding feature film focusing on science or technology as a theme, or depicting a scientist, engineer or mathematician as a major character" at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.