Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Max Mayer
Stars: Hugh Dancy, Rose Byrne, Peter Gallagher, Amy Irving, Frankie Faison.
A quirky tale about a loner looking for romance, much like Lars And The Real Girl, Adam proves to be an unexpectedly charming, endearing and thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy that shamelessly tugs at the heart strings.
Electrical engineer Adam (Hugh Dancy) suffers from Asperger’s (the same affliction that Max suffered from in Adam Elliott’s wonderful claymation film Mary And Max), which means that he cannot empathise with other people, nor can he process their emotions or thoughts in the same way. After his father dies, Adam is basically left to fend for himself, with the help of old friend Harlan (Frankie Faison). Then Beth (Rose Byrne), a primary school teacher, moves into his apartment block, and an unusual friendship develops. After a few false starts their friendship develops into a fullblown romance.
However, Adam’s disability means that he can only respond to people honestly, and a complication develops after he meets her parents (Peter Gallagher and Amy Irving). Beth’s father, an accountant, is facing court, charged with various counts of fraud and deception. Beth needs someone strong to support her in this difficult time, and help her deal with her confused emotions. Unfortunately, Adam is not that person, even though he is a nice guy and slightly obsessed with all things outer space.
What elevates the material is the wonderful performances of the two leads who establish a genuine chemistry that overcomes the familiar-sounding material. Handsome Brit Dancy, who has played the lead in a number of other recent romantic comedies like Confessions Of A Shopaholic and The Jane Austen Book Club, is fine as Adam. He is not Forrest Gump, and there is nothing mannered or in the least bit affected or artificial in his portrayal. And Byrne is excellent as Beth, and manages to bring some depth and intelligence to a fairly routine role.
Writer-director Max Mayer’s treatment is unsensational, and even manages to inject some winning humour into the material. Mayer (who has directed episodes of Family Law and The West Wing, etc) gives the film a melancholy and bittersweet feel. His treatment of Adam’s condition is handled with sensitivity and compassion, and somehow it feels real. And more importantly, the film is sensitive and moving without being overly manipulative.